AUSTIN (KXAN) – In Texas’ season-opening win against Rice, the Longhorns were never in real danger but the offense sputtered at times. Despite the slow moments, junior wide receiver Xavier Worthy didn’t miss a beat.

Seven catches for 90 yards in the win against the Owls for Worthy were both marks that led Texas. While putting up numbers like he always has, the third-year wideout feels different.

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“I feel like I’m playing more relaxed,” said Worthy. “Just doing me. Just having a smile about it. Going about it like the next play could be my last play. I’m just taking everything to mind and living my best life.”

The 2022 season was statistically impressive for Worthy, but it sure brought adversity. A lack of a connection on deep passes from quarterback Quinn Ewers and playing through a broken hand for part of the season made last fall tough for the Fresno native.

It’s been clear from an outside perspective that Worthy seems to be having more fun this year. His head coach sure agrees.

“The personality of him is really back out,” said Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian. “He’s smiling so much more. You almost feel like there’s a weight lifted off his shoulders and he’s enjoying playing the game.”

Worthy led Texas in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns as a freshman and sophomore. To his teammates, they see a new level.

“He’s definitely taken that next step, just like Quinn [Ewers],” said Longhorns junior tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders. “That’s why you see him and Quinn’s connection was real good over the weekend.”

“Nothing changes for him,” Sarkisian said. “He’s the first guy on the practice field every day. He’s one of the last ones to leave. He sits in the front row in every meeting. He takes great notes.”

Worthy and the Longhorns have arguably their toughest test of the year Saturday when they travel to Tuscaloosa to take on third-ranked Alabama. KXAN will have your coverage from Bryant-Denny Stadium over the weekend previewing and recapping the 6 p.m. showdown.