Editor’s note: The Tennessee Titans selected QB Will Levis with the No. 33 pick in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft on April 28.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (BVM) — Will Levis was always destined to play the game of football. His great-grandfather Alva Kelley starred for Cornell in its 1939 national championship run. His uncle David Kelley was an All-American at Yale. His father Mike played at Denison University.
“Nothing was ever forced on me, but I think with the background of football that I had, I gravitated towards football,” Levis said. “That’s something I knew I was passionate about from a very young age.”
While football was always the expectation for Levis growing up in Middletown, Connecticut, the quarterback position was not. Levis started as a running back as a fourth grader. His first carry: a 50–yard touchdown.
“I was like, ‘This is pretty easy and pretty awesome,’” Levis said. “It’s always fun when you’re dominating as a little kid because you don’t think anyone can stop you. Then you realize it takes a lot more hard work than your god-given natural abilities to get to where you want to be.”
Levis is now a star QB at the University of Kentucky and a potential No. 1 pick for the 2023 NFL Draft. But Levis did not get his shot at the quarterback position until a moment of necessity.
In seventh grade, his team’s starter suffered an injury and his head coach decided to roll the dice with Levis as a wildcat quarterback. This was a moment that changed Levis’ life forever.
“I realized that I could throw,” Levis said. “That next offseason is where I decided that I might want to take the quarterback position a little more seriously and things just developed from there.”
As Levis got older, he parlayed this into becoming the No. 2 high school prospect in the state of Connecticut for the 2018 recruiting class.
He was a star at Xavier High School, throwing for over 5,400 passing yards with 55 touchdown passes during his high school career. Prior to the beginning of his senior season, Levis committed to Penn State, where he spent his first three years of college.
After the 2020 season, Levis decided to explore all of his options, which ultimately led to his transfer to Lexington. For any 21-year-old, deciding to change schools is a big decision whether you are an athlete or not. But with the embracement from the Kentucky fanbase, Levis felt right at home.
“Our fans are just as passionate and energetic as anyone in the country,” Levis said. “They deserve the world. They’re what make this program and this team so special. We owe it to them to work our tails off and to make sure this team is ready to go.”
Levis fit in from the jump last season with the Wildcats amassing 3,202 yards of offense along with 33 total touchdowns. His emergence was evident as not only a top quarterback in the SEC but the entire country.
Despite all of his personal success and impressive stats, Levis takes the most pride in Kentucky’s team performance from the 2021 season, finishing 9-3 with a Citrus Bowl win over Iowa.
“A team accomplishment is so much more special than an individual one,” Levis said. “There are so many different working pieces involved with a team victory. Everyone from the head coach to the janitors of our facility. Everyone had a piece in it. As the quarterback being one of the main pieces of it, and being someone who has to manage those other pieces, makes me proud of the way I approached last year and ultimately how it ended up.”
Within less than two years, Levis went from being in the transfer portal to being arguably the face of the Kentucky program, while boosting his draft stock along the way.
“It’s been pretty wild,” Levis said. “I’ve been able to feel so much more comfortable now than really I’ve ever been as a player. The position I was in at Penn State where I wasn’t the starter gave me a lot of motivation and a huge competitive edge to just work extremely hard. The most important thing for me is to not lose that edge.”
While NFL Draft buzz can get into the head of someone in Levis’ position, he is only focused on getting better every day and leading Kentucky to the 2023 SEC Championship game.
Levis has proved in the past that he will do whatever it takes to win, but unlike his seventh-grade season, the Wildcats will not be asking him to change positions.