Former Lacrosse Star Xavier Arline Chasing His Dreams With Navy Football

Like any other high school senior, Xavier Arline needed to decide what he wanted to do the following year.

But the three-sport athlete from Long Island needed to make up his mind about more than where he wanted to attend college. He needed to decide which sport to focus on at the Division I level.

Arline was ranked by Inside Lacrosse as the No. 5 player in the nation in the Class of 2020. The star attackman earned All-American honors and essentially had his choice of powerhouse colleges courting him to play lacrosse. His father played the sport at Delaware and his sister at Stony Brook.

Arline committed to play lacrosse for the University of North Carolina when he was only in eighth grade, but something pulled him back to his first love.

“There’s no sport like football. I just love it so much,” he said of his decision to play quarterback for the Naval Academy. “I don’t think I’d be able to go to a school and just play lacrosse and be able to tailgate for the football games and watch the football games without having any regret with my decision. … I wasn’t ready to stop playing.”

The sophomore quarterback believes he will pick up a stick again in the future but is unsure when that will be. Right now, Arline remains entirely committed to the Midshipmen football team. Entering Navy’s game against Cincinnati Oct. 23, he had run for 166 yards and completed five passes for 109 yards.

“I made a decision to decommit from my previous commitment at the University of North Carolina and chase my dreams,” Arline said. “I don’t think anything’s ever impossible, but I think at this moment right now, I’m focused on this team and football and what I can do to help this team win.

“I gave a lot of things up to come here and chase my dreams and help this team win and join the ‘Brotherhood.’ I don’t think I’m done with lacrosse yet, but that’s definitely not where my focus is right now. I’m focused on where my feet are, one day at a time, making sure that this team can win games and get Navy back to where we should be.”

In 2019, Arline led Shoreham-Wading River High School to a New York State championship in lacrosse and a Long Island title on the gridiron. In his final high school football game, he accounted for 357 all-purpose yards, running for four touchdowns and passing for two more.

Arline said one skill in particular has led him to excel in both sports.

“I just think my quickness. I think I’m built for the Navy offense, the option game and being at the quarterback,” he said. “I have the ball in my hands a lot. I played attack in lacrosse, the ‘X’ position. They call that the quarterback of the offense in lacrosse, too. I’d have the ball in my hands a lot and [be] forced to make decisions that can put the game on the line.

“I live for that pressure. I’ve been used to it my whole life. I think there’s definitely some similarities to both sports.”

Arline made three starts at quarterback during an unusual and uncharacteristically down season for Navy as a freshman in 2020. He became only the fifth Midshipmen — and first since Keenan Reynolds in 2012 — to start at the position against Army as a freshman.

Arline finished last season as the team’s third-leading rusher with 210 yards on 59 carries and completed four of his 12 pass attempts for 27 yards.

So far, Arline’s sophomore season has not gone how he would hope. Arline came out of spring practices in a tie with fellow sophomore Tai Lavatai atop the quarterback depth chart. Neither grabbed a hold of the starting job through training camp.

Head coach Ken Niumatalolo said before the season that the competition would remain ongoing until one quarterback took hold of the starting job. Ultimately, Lavatai got the nod against Marshall in the season opener.

Navy utilized both quarterbacks during a sluggish first half on offense. Shortly after halftime, Lavatai suffered a lower-body injury that sidelined him for each of the Midshipmen’s next two games.

With Arline starting, Navy lost both of its next two games. The first was the result of a historically bad offensive performance by the Midshipmen against Air Force Sept. 11. After a bye week, Navy played much better during a loss at Houston that left Niumatalolo feeling encouraged in the direction his team was moving.

Junior Maasai Maynor replaced Arline late in each loss with the Midshipmen trailing and needing to throw the ball.

“It kills him. I can just see the pain in his face. Unfortunately when you lose, you don’t want to lose, but when you lose, you want to see what bothers people and it definitely bothers Xavier. He’s a competitor. You feel for the kid,” Niumatalolo said of Arline two days after the Houston game. “I know he wants to play better, but he’s a guy that comes to work every day. He’s on the field early. He’s putting in the work. That’s why I’m encouraged by him, that he’s not happy with his play or the play [of] our offense.”

Niumatalolo said there was both good and bad from Arline against the Cougars. He missed some throws and some reads in the triple-option, but Navy moved the ball the best it had to that point in the season. Arline ran for a 40-yard touchdown.

Lavatai returned from injury Oct. 2 and led Navy to its first win of the season, 34-30, against heavy favorites UCF, playing the entire game.

But Arline will be ready if his name is called in the future.

“This is the position I signed up for. I’ve been playing quarterback all my life,” Arline said. “You’re the hero when you win and when you lose, sometimes you can be looked at as the villain. It takes a lot of mental capacity to play this position, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, helping this team get in the best position to win games.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Navy Athletics

Issue 271: October/November 2021