Levis has become natural leader for UK

Published 5:00 pm Friday, July 22, 2022

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis hasn’t changed his focus during the off-season.

“I don’t think my mindset has changed too much,” he said. “Ever since I’ve played college ball, I’ve really had the mindset of going into the facility, and earning the starting job, whether I was last on the depth chart or first. I still have to fight for that and win that every day and I understand that.”

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has witnessed the same observation.

““The way we know Will, he hasn’t changed at all,” Stoops said. “He took the reins a long time ago and never gave them back up. He had a tremendous season and all he’s really focused on is getting better.”

A year ago, Levis was a relatively unknown signal-caller in the Southeastern Conference, but the Penn State transfer won the starting job over Joey Gatewood and current backup Beau Allen and led the Wildcats to a 10-3 season and a win over Iowa in the Citrus Bowl. He threw for 2,826 yards and 24 touchdowns, while rushing for 376 yards and nine scores.

Now that he’s an incumbent starter, Levis admitted the off-season was more enjoyable as the senior quarterback prepares for his final season.

““It is a little bit of less stress on me,” Levis admitted. “This is my first off-season as an established starter and someone that’s not really competing for a job. It gives me more focus to worry about the leadership side of things and getting the guys together — working on the chemistry – and I think I’ve been able to improve a lot more throughout this off-season because of that.”

With the starting job came more responsibilities, especially from a leadership perspective, and Levis has embraced the call to become more of a vocal leader on and off the field.

“I’ve always tried to be a leader, but I think how you lead changes a little bit when you are a starter,” he said. “I’ve been able to be a little bit more vocal and I’ve been able to be more frank with dudes and be straight up with guys. I’ve earned the respect from everybody to be able to do that. I’m always going to lead by example like I always have and I think that’s the best way anyone can lead. I’m never going to lose that about myself.”

Stoops likes the way Levis has inserted himself as a leader.

““He continues to lead and he’s a great leader, great teammate, but he’s working on himself to be a better football player,” Stoops said. “That’s what you love about him and that’s contagious.”

The Kentucky coach also knows Levis hasn’t reached his full potential.

““Everybody can improve,” Stoops said. “If you look at the best players in the world and you can think of a few quarterbacks out there that are pretty self-motivated — constantly trying to get better. Look at Tom Brady, look at Peyton Manning — they were constantly working at their craft and trying to get better and Will has that mindset.

“He’s a very good football player but, like all of us, he can always be better,” Stoops said. “That’s what you love about him.”

The success Levis enjoyed last season has resulted in more recognition for the Kentucky quarterback going into his senior campaign and doesn’t mind the added attention. Some NFL mock drafts have him as a top 10 player.

“I try not to pay too much attention to it,” Levis said. “It’s impossible for me not to see it and it’s cool. I acknowledge it and my family, it’s cool for them as well. I don’t worry about it. I just focus on the task at hand, getting the team ready and working toward our goals.”

Keith Taylor is the sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at Keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com and via Twitter at keithtaylor21.