Modesto Christian High defensive end Xavier Carlton climbed into a Volkswagen Jetta, squeezing his 6-foot-6, 242-pound frame into the driver’s seat.
Like a big man in a little car, Carlton, a highly-touted Division I prospect, will soon outgrow the high school spotlight. With four stars, an insatiable appetite for film and an NFL body, Carlton is being courted by all the biggies — Notre Dame, Cal, Iowa State, Arizona State, Fresno State and Utah, among others.
“Sometimes I pinch myself, but I’m extremely blessed to have these offers and blessed to work hard and be a part of Modesto Christian football,” said Carlton, No. 6 on the Front Row's list of top-50 returning players. “They really like my use of hands, body type and how I think on and off the field.”
And just like a big man behind the wheel of a little car, Carlton won’t allow himself to be distracted or steered off course. The junior is fully invested in Modesto Christian’s pursuit of Trans-Valley League and Sac-Joaquin Section banners, not his offers or national ranking.
“My focus is primarily on MC football and getting ready for the season,” said Carlton, rated the 13th-best strong side defensive end in the Class of 2020 in the nation, according to 247Sports.
Carlton had 82 tackles and six sacks. He also had 14 receptions for 191 yards and three touchdowns as the Crusaders overcame a sluggish start to the season to win a share of the TVL title and reach the D-VI section final. Modesto Christian was thumped in the final by league rival Hilmar, 42-13.
“I’ve been pushing my teammates really hard this summer to get them ready for our first game against Sierra of Manteca (on Aug. 17),” Calrton said. “I’m getting ready for that game — let’s kick off the season. … I think this year is our year.”
Carlton will play in memory of late assistant coach Jeff Martin, affectionately known on campus as “Coach Mac." Martin, who had an enlarged heart, ink on every limb and a mile-wide smile, died unexpectedly on March 10, leaving behind a wife and son, Nicole and Austin, and the Crusader football family.
At the time of his death, Modesto Christian coach Mike Parsons said he lost a brother and best friend. Carlton considered Martin, whose zest for life was infectious, a second father.
“Coach Mac, he really shined a light on all of us. We really miss him. He was our No. 1 fan and No. 1 coach,” Carlton said. “It’s going to be a shame he’s not going to be on the sidelines watching us, but we feel his presence on the field. We know that he’s right by our side, patting us on the back and saying, ‘Hey, it’s OK. I’m right behind you and I’m going to follow you until the season is over. I got you guys.’ ”
Carlton praised Martin for helping him see the bigger picture. Martin challenged one of the top recruits in the Class of 2020 to be more than a football player. Be a high-achieving student. Be a better man. Be the example.
Martin will be inducted into the Modesto Christian football program’s Ring of Honor on Friday evening during the Red, White and Blue dinner, which begins at 6.
“He was like my second father. Great man. Great coach,” Carlton said. “He prepared me to be a better man on and off the field. He told me there are more things than football. ‘After football you got to do something, right? You can’t sit around and slack off. You got to keep working. Fight for your family. Fight for your goals.’ ”
July 16-Aug. 10: 50. Sean McGovern, DB/WR, Ripon Chr.; 49. Bryan Millan, WR/DB/K, Hilmar; 48. Logan Weatherby, RB/LB, Calaveras; 47. Isaac Schinnman, RB/LB, Modesto Chr.; 46. JoJo Espinoza, WR/S, East Union; 45. Ryan Kraft, QB, Bret Harte; 44. Xavier Rodriguez, QB, Davis; 43. Joao Silveira, LB, Hilmar; 42. Landon Wright, DL, Modesto Chr.; 41. Xavier Stewart, WR, Merced; 40. Charles Jackson, RB, Atwater; 39. Hayden Sauser, QB, Modesto Chr.; 38. D. Durossette, QB, Central Cath.; 37. Trey Longstreth, WR/DB, Gregori; 36. Justin Traina, DB, Central Catholic; 35. Nash Satnat, LB, Escalon; 34. Payton Bass, RB, Pitman; 33. Justin Rentfro, RB/DE, Hilmar; 32. Dhameer Warren, QB/DB, Merced; 31. Jacob Bettencourt, QB, Orestimba; 30. Trey Paster, DB, Buhach Colony; 29. Marquise Higgins, LB/WR, East Union; 28. Omar Ortega, OL, Patterson; 27. Antonio Lopez, RB, Los Banos; 26. Jonah Kosakiewicz, QB, Turlock; 25. Kyle Jackson, QB, Central Cath.; 24. Anderson Grover, WR, Downey; 23. Jake Dirkse, LB, Turlock; 22. Trabron Russell, RB, Manteca; 21. Garrett Fountain, DE, Turlock; 20. Kaden Christensen, RB, Escalon; 19. Jorge Cedano, WR, Manteca; 18. Logan Foumai, OL, Patterson; 17. Zaire Eugene, RB, Modesto; 16. Isaac Sharp, RB, Hilmar; 15. Ryan Daggett, QB, Ripon; 14. Jacob DeJesus, WR, Manteca; 13. C.J. Castleman, RB, Sonora; 12. Chris Mendoza, OL, Central Cath.; 11. Javyn Drobnick, RB, Big Valley Chr.; 10. Tyler Vargas, WR, Orestimba; 9. Eric Soares, OL, Central Cath.; 8 Jake Gookin, QB, Sonora; 7 Marcello Longstreth, ATH, Gregori.
Today: No. 6 Xavier Carlton, DE, Modesto Chr.
Aug. 13-17: 5-1.