NFL Draft: Wherever Will Levis goes, New England goes with him – The Boston Globe

When Will Levis takes the field, he plays without fear or inhibition to remind kids from New England that it’s possible to defy the odds and achieve their dreams.
Levis was born at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, spent the first six years of his life in North Attleborough, then blossomed into a star in Madison, Conn. His football journey took him to Xavier High School (Middletown, Conn.), Penn State, then Kentucky, and now he will be headed to the NFL.
“I think that coming from this area really did help me,” Levis said. “I thought of myself as more of an underdog. If I grew up in Texas, or in California, maybe my mind-set would have been different. Where I grew up really helped me and pushed me to become who I am.”
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Levis is currently the Vegas favorite to go No. 2 overall in this week’s NFL Draft to the Texans.
As he reaches new heights, Levis keeps his local roots close to his heart. His great-grandfather, Alva Kelley, coached at Brown. His grandfather, David Kelley, was a three-sport athlete at UMass and coached at Yale, and his uncle played at Yale. His father, Mike, starred in football at Bishop Feehan, and his mother, Beth, was an All-American soccer player at Yale.

He grew up a huge Patriots fan and has tried to model his work ethic after Tom Brady’s.
Liam Coen, a former UMass star who is Kentucky’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, believes much of Levis’s success stems from his incredible focus and a deep desire to live up to his potential.
“He does extra,” Coen said. “Every single meeting, walk-through, practice is truly game-like. The way he prepares, the way he attacks everything that he does, that’s been instilled in him from his family at a very young age. He’s outworked everybody that he’s ultimately come across.”
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Levis was born in June of 1999, and lived just a few miles from Gillette Stadium, so it was nearly impossible not to become a Patriots fan. A few Patriots lived in his neighborhood; then-Patriots QB coach Dick Rehbein was just around the corner.
Levis describes himself as a kid who was “banging into walls” and “being reckless.” He dabbled in basketball, T-ball, and soccer at the YMCA, but something about football always stood out.
Brady was a major reason why. Levis saw that Brady also had three sisters, was underappreciated at times, and never stopped pursuing perfection. Levis envisioned what he wanted to become through Brady’s journey. When Levis met Brady last summer at a golf event in Las Vegas, it reinforced how far he has come and how much more there is to accomplish.
“I think Will’s had that chip on his shoulder, and still does, like what Tom Brady always has, to prove people wrong and be the best version of himself,” Mike Levis said.
Levis always had talent, but at Xavier, he didn’t immediately catch the eye of Power Five schools. Former Millis coach Dana Olson helped connect him with the right people, and when Levis found himself standing out at camps in the South, he realized he belonged. Offers came in a hurry before his senior season, and he found a home at Penn State.
When Levis decided to transfer from Penn State, he dealt with some “internal turmoil” and initially believed he was giving up. After some reflection, he realized that wasn’t the case; instead, he was continuing his dreams on a new path.
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He blossomed into a star at Kentucky, throwing 43 touchdown passes and accumulating more than 5,000 passing yards in two years.


Levis became a captain after just eight practices. He cares about building relationships and is more well-rounded than the typical football player, in Coen’s eyes.
“When you meet Will, you’re around him, and he walks in the room, you feel him,” Coen said. “He has a presence that a lot of the really good ones have. Those are the types of things that make him special.”
Much of that stemmed from watching his grandfather David Kelley connect with players throughout Levis’s childhood.
Kelley would pull Levis aside at a young age for heart-to-hearts, teaching him how to become a man. At first Levis found himself squirming in his seat, eager to end the chats. Once he got older, he realized how wise his grandfather’s words were.
“He ended pretty much every single conversation I had with him with, ‘Never give up,’ ” Levis said. “That became my mantra.”
Kelley died in 2020 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, but he’s never far from Levis’s mind. Levis has a tattoo on his right biceps that reads “2nd Chronicles 15:7,” to remind him: “Be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”
So Kelley is with him on every pass he throws.
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Family is everything to Levis, and he plays in large part to make them proud. He’ll always root for New England sports teams — unless of course he doesn’t go to the Patriots — but he’s hungry to continue carving out his own path.
“It was definitely a blessing to have so many people in my family before me go on to be successful,” Levis said. “One, it showed me that it was possible, and two, it gave me motivation to continue that legacy.”
Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College: Possible first- or second-rounder, played four seasons and had 200 catches for 3,056 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Luke Schoonmaker, TE, Michigan: From Hamden, Conn., played three seasons and totaled 54 receptions for 637 yards.
Jerrod Clark, DT, Coastal Carolina: From Dorchester, starred at Brighton High, saw action in three seasons with the Chanticleers and registered 107 tackles and 7.5 sacks.
Austin Burton, Purdue, QB: From Newton, totaled 682 passing yards over one season at UCLA and two at Purdue; grandfather Ron Burton was the first-ever draft pick of the Boston Patriots.
Jaiden Woodbey, S, Boston College: Started his career at Florida State and compiled 104 tackles over two seasons with the Eagles.
Marcus Valdez, DE, Boston College: Posted 133 tackles and 13.5 sacks over five seasons at BC.
Liam Anderson, LB, Holy Cross: Spent five seasons with the Crusaders and racked up 214 tackles, 14.5 sacks, and 6 interceptions.
Chibueze Onwuka, DT, Boston College: Missed the 2021 season with an Achilles’ tendon injury, played in 22 games over two seasons, and forced two fumbles with the Eagles.
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