Will Levis comes from a family of athletes


Will Levis throws at pass at a Penn State football practice.

Barkley Truax

Will Levis didn’t become a Division One quarterback by chance, it’s in his blood.

“Football has been a part of my life ever since I was a kid,” Levis said. “Not only did my grandfather play during college, he ended up coaching defensive line and was a co-defensive coordinator at Yale as well.”

His grandfather, who played a major role in his life and helped shape Levis into the man he is today, was a three sport athlete at UMass before taking his talents to the Ivy League coaching ranks.

“[My grandparents] were actually our next door neighbors, so I spent a lot of time over there,” he said, “Seeing all the pictures, awards and championships and going to Yale games growing up. My uncle played there as well. Being there in that environment, I pretty much had no choice but to play football. It’s not like they pushed me into it, but it’s something I just loved from the start.”

His grandfather, or “pap pap”, as Levis called him, was the inspiration behind the tattoo on his right bicep. 

“[My grandpa] was famous for his long conversations,” he said. “I’d be an eight-year old kid sitting on the couch with him; all I wanted to do was play with my toys, but he wouldn’t let me leave, telling me some grand scheme of life.”

“Back then I’m slouching on the couch, half paying attention. It took to be once I was a little more mature to realize how valuable these conversations were.”

“One of the things he always stressed to me and what’s become my personal mantra is to never give up,” Levis said. “Keep pushing and keep pursuing whatever goal you have in mind and ultimately good things will come.”

Those words echoed in Levis’ mind when in a bible study, reading Chronicles 15:7 “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

As soon as his family saw what it meant to him was about his connection with his grandfather, they were all for the idea. His grandfath especially loved it. 

The tattoo means that much more to him today as his grandfather died last July, and serves as a reminder to never give up and to keep grinding.

His family lineage of athletic success doesn’t end there, as his great-grandfather won a national championship in football at Cornell in 1935. His mother, Beth, was an All-American soccer player at Yale and his father, Mike, played football at Denison. 

“My parents were the ones to be by my side every step of the way, showing me what it means to have a good work ethic; what it means to be a great family member,” he said.

Levis said his father is the biggest role model in his everyday life. “Even if it’s not football, I can look to [my father] and use him as an example of how to approach everyday life.”

Levis is the oldest of four and has two sisters who are big into athletics as well. One younger sister is a lacrosse player at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the other, an eighth grader that Levis says will be the best athlete of the bunch — something that’s easier said than done. 

Even with all the success his family has had throughout the years, Levis was a late bloomer when it came to setting himself on the radar of Division One coaches.

“My recruiting process started a little later than most other college quarterbacks,” Levis said. “I didn’t come onto the scene until the summer after my junior year of high school, so that already limited the number of schools that I was able to look at seriously.”

During that Summer, Levis attended the New Jersey Regional Nike Opening Camp.

“Being from Connecticut, obviously not the biggest hotbed football recruiting state in the country so right off the bat I had some obstacles to go over,” he said. “I went through the process, went to all these camps. Even though I thought I was performing pretty well, I didn’t feel like I was getting the recognition I deserved.”

At the camp, Levis won the Nike SPARQ Score in the camp, which is a combination of his height, weight, 40-yard dash time, shuttle time, explosive medicine ball throw and a couple other measurables and together, he had the best score of anyone at the camp. “That’s what kick-started things for me.”

If there’s one thing football coaches love — it’s measurables.

“Eventually, Penn State hit me up and told me they were looking for a quarterback and knew right away that was a school I was interested in,” he said.

“[Committing to Penn State] wasn’t just a football decision, I wanted to make it based on my education, the social life I was going to have … and the proximity to home and it’s not too far from Connecticut.”

After three years and a bachelor’s degree in finance later, Levis has landed himself in Lexington in a battle for the starting quarterback job, where he plans to write another chapter in his family’s lineage of athletic success.