Why Kentucky? “Well,” former Penn State quarterback and current Kentucky Wildcat Will Levis said. “The opportunity didn’t get much better than here.”
His story starts as any student-athlete’s does, with asking himself, ‘what’s next?’
“Once [last] season ended, some decisions had to be made,” Levis said. “I sat down with my parents, had some very tough conversations with the coaches at Penn State and my parents, deciding on what I wanted to do.”
Ultimately, he decided to enter the transfer portal with three years of NCAA eligibility left. Levis wanted to be a starting quarterback, and Kentucky felt like a perfect fit for him.
Kentucky was one of the first schools that reached out to him, and after having that first conversation with UK’s new offensive coordinator Liam Coen, they instantly became a school that was on the top of the list.
Coen previously coached for the University of Maine (before moving on to become the OC of the Los Angeles Rams) and recruited Levis out of high school, which made the commitment process easier for the transfer.
“If you look at the scope of college football, you know which teams could possibly be looking for a quarterback, and which teams already have their guy,” he said. “... I knew that Kentucky was losing [Terry Wilson] the next year; they kind of had a question mark at that position, so I knew that would be a possible school that could reach out to me.”
Levis committed shortly after entering the portal, choosing Kentucky with little hesitation.
“This decision was strictly football related,” Levis said. “That’s what my goal is, [football is] what I want to put my foot into the ground and do.”
“The conversation I’ve had with the coaches, diving more into what the program is like, what their values are, what the coaches really believe in, the offense we’re going to run … that’s what was really special to me.”
Levis never stepped foot on UK’s campus before he had already committed in February, but he knew this decision felt right. But just as he encountered at Penn State, he was coming into a QB battle with the likes of Joey Gatewood and Beau Allen.
“It’s nothing new to me,” he said. “At Penn State, with the exception of my true freshman year when Trace McSorley was our quarterback … The next two years, I was in that similar competition with Sean Clifford, who’s the quarterback there now. Every camp, every Spring ball we had that competition going.”
Just as Mark Stoops has reiterated several times, the quarterback position battle is wide open and Levis is doing all he can to impress his team and the coaches throughout the summer before Kentucky opens the season on Sept. 4 against Louisiana Monroe.
McSorley, now a quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens, made a huge impact on a true freshman Levis.
“Even when I was the fourth-string quarterback at the time, he made a great point that [I] need to step into the room and the facility everyday as if you are the starting quarterback,” he said. “That’s how you establish yourself as a leader; that’s how you have people look up to you and trust you. I took that mentality with me throughout my whole career at Penn State and I’ll take that with me for however many years I end up playing football as well.”
Throughout his whole career, Levis has had to prove everyone wrong and now that he’s at Kentucky, he has to do that all over again; so how will Levis keep his edge if he does win the starting job in Lexington this fall?
Levis pointed out Tom Brady as one of his biggest inspirations. He says Brady has always been doubted, he’s too old to win but always has that chip on his shoulder and plays with the mindset of, ‘the best ring is the next ring.’
“You want to have that mentality whether it’s your first start for a team or you’re making your 100th start for your team,” he said. “That’s the only way that you can continue to add that competitive edge.”
Levis has a ‘six-second mentality’ where every play, every game, every week has to be approached differently and to put aside what happened before and become focused on the next task; and that has him excited for the summer end and to get to work on Saturdays.
“For the Wildcat nation, be ready for a great football season,” Levis said. “We have a great team, we haven’t been able to actually be on the field and play with them yet, but I know we’ve got something special.”
“I think that if we just pull it together and we have that great mindset, we’re going to be able to do some great things.”