Xavier Legette is so much more than his incredible accent

Xavier Legette was all over social media following the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. The final pick of the first round by the Carolina Panthers, football fans immediately fell in love with videos of his distinct, intensely regional South Carolina accent.

Videos of Legette speaking quickly went viral. Fans from the Carolinas and beyond couldn’t believe they hadn’t heard him really talk before — more specifically, they had no idea how intensely country he sounded. It was enough that Legette was asked about his accent during his introductory press conference, and he brushed it off with signature charm.

Outside of his Pee Dee accent, which comes from a specific part of South Carolina roughly an hour west of Myrtle Beach, the story of Xavier Legette is even better than how he talks. The accent, the southern politeness, they’re just window dressing for a guy who deserves success, and so much more after facing unbelievable hardship en route to the NFL.

Facing true adversity

Legette was a promising young football player with everything ahead of him. Entering 9th grade he was a lock to made the Mullins High School football team, which would put him on the fast track to a college scholarship.

Then, to close out his freshman year, Legette’s life was turned upside down. His mother Anita, died after a long battle with breast cancer. It shook the family, and caused the teenage to shut down physically and emotionally. Xavier’s grandmother Linda, who lived across the street from them, did everything she could to try and make him talk about what he was feeling — but to no avail.

During those ensuing months, he shut down. When asked how he was doing, he’d quickly reply, “I’m fine” and shut his lips. He was sitting in class sleeping with a hood draped over his head.

Linda ensured Xavier didn’t waste away emotionally. Enlisting the help of the Mullins High School counsellor they taught the promising young athlete to channel his grief into being productive. The two helped turn the tragedy of his mother’s death into fuel, making Legette play for her, using his talent to honor her, and after three months of intense work, Xavier finally began to turn the corner, choosing emerge from the darkness.

Legette became a force at Mullins. He played football, basketball, and baseball — becoming quarterback of the varsity team, where he showed absolutely unreal athleticism. A dual-threat QB, Legette ran for over 1,800 yards and scored 19 touchdowns his senior season. His natural position was always destined to be wide receiver, which garnered tremendous recruiting attention — especially from South Carolina and Tennessee.

Ultimately Legette decided to become a Gamecock, primarily so he could remain closer to his family. Then with three months left before graduation Xavier Legette was once again rocked by tragedy.

After moving past the grief of losing his mother, Xavier made a stunning early-morning phone call to his grandmother.

“I don’t think I can go to school today,” Legette told Linda.
“Whatchu mean you don’t think you can go to school?”
“I think my daddy died,” he said softly.
“Why do you think that?”
“Because I can’t wake him.”
“I’m on my way. I’ll be right there.”

Legette’s father, Anthony, suffered a heart attack overnight and died in his sleep. He’d now lost both parents in the span of three years in high school. Xavier’s grandparents refused to allow him to be lost in his grief. Instead they brought him in, ensured he graduated, and would go on to South Carolina.

Donald Brown, the receivers coach for Mullins high, was at his side when the Panthers selected him with the No. 32 pick.

“Me and him talked about last week,” Brown said. “I was like, ‘Only if your mom and dad could be here.’ He said, ‘Coach, they’re here.’”

Finding the perfect home

The Panthers were enamored with Legette from their first time meeting him. It was abundantly clear the team were targeting him, try as they might to hide it. Shortly afterh is pro day Legette told the media the Panthers wanted him, and this was shortly followed by Bryce Young’s father advocating for Carolina to take Legette, as he believed he’d be a perfect fit for Bryce.

The quickness, the toughness, the opportunity for home-run plays after the catch — all things the Panthers desperately need as they move past the disastrous Frank Reich era into a new one led by Dave Canales. Similarly, the Panthers are the perfect team for Legette — who made it know prior to the draft that staying in Carolina would make it easier for his grandparents to come watch him play in the NFL.

More than that, the underlying ethos of the Carolina Panthers is tailor made for someone like Xavier Legette. The team’s motto “Keep Pounding,” is a lesson in perseverance, in never quitting — no matter what cards life deals you. The phrase came about in 2004, when former player and Panthers legend Sam Mills was battling an aggressive form of intestinal cancer.

Given just a few months to live, Mills spoke to the Panthers in January — well past the prognosis given by doctors, and used his own battle as a way of motivating the team as they approached the playoffs. Referred to as “The Speech,” it lives in the annals of Carolina Panthers history.

“When I found out I had cancer, there were two things could do: quit or Keep Pounding,” Mills said, in the generally accepted summation of what was said that day. “I’m a fighter. I kept pounding. You’re fighters, too. Keep Pounding!”

It’s now a rallying cry for fighting. For never giving up. For staring adversity in the face and choosing not to get swallowed by it — just as Xavier Legette did after losing both his parents. Legette chose to not let his life, his talent, slip away. Now he plays in his parents’ memory, but also for those who picked him up and put him on the path to the NFL.

The first thing that grabs you when listening to Legette talk is his accent. The second is his relentless positivity. There’s a visceral magnetism when he speaks, and it’s impossible not to have a smile on your face after listening to him. This young man has dealt with so much in his life, and learned how to harness it towards become the best athlete he can be.

It’s impossible not to be a fan of Xavier Legette.

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