Faith, family, football (and fruit, of course): The story of Will Levis

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) looks for an open receiver during an open practice in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)

Jack Weaver

Will Levis knows what it’s like to be a “normal student.”

Last semester, Levis spent his weekends at Kroger Field, where he led the Wildcats in a successful 10-3 season. But just a semester before that, he was spending his weekends at Penn State like any college student does — relaxing and studying to graduate.

Levis was still living with his former Penn State teammates, but he no longer had commitments to the team after entering the transfer portal in January 2021.

“It was kind of a time for me to recharge and really focus on this transition phase that I was going into,” Levis said.

Levis graduated from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in finance in May 2021. The next day, after an eight-hour car ride to Lexington, his time as a normal college student was over. It was back to football.

“I was ready to hit the ground running,” Levis said.

And that’s what he did. After an impressive showing at fall camp, Levis was named Kentucky’s starting quarterback, a sign of payoff for the difficult decision to transfer.

The initial thought that transferring may have been in his best interest was not easy for Levis to cope with at the time, he said. Like he is used to doing, Levis relied on his biggest supporters for guidance: his parents.

“There were some long nights spent with long conversations and hard conversations about what the best decision for me would be,” he said. “It was really, really tough.”

Levis said his mother especially shares in his anxiety when preparing for games.

“I think my mom gets more emotional and worked up for the games than I do. She thinks she’s the one playing,” he said.

Levis knew that if he wanted to play professional football one day, he needed to find a school where he had a better chance of starting, he said.

However, Levis was afraid that choosing to transfer would go against his personal mantra to never give up, a saying that Levis’ grandfather instilled in him from a young age.

“He’d literally say that at the end of every conversation I ever had with him,” he said. 

At eight years old, Levis didn’t give too much thought to the wise words of his grandfather, he said. But as he grew older, he began to cherish those moments before his grandfather passed away.

Now, those words live on through the Bible verse tattooed on Levis’ right bicep.

“It’s the second book of Chronicles, verse seven, which reads, ‘But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded,’” he said.

The ink on Levis’ arm isn’t the extent of his faith by any means.

“My faith is something that I strive in and struggle with at times, as well,” he said.

Spending one-on-one time with team chaplain Aaron Hogue, Levis has learned to use his faith to keep him from getting “too worked up over such minuscule things like a football game.”

And when it comes to handling the pressure of his role at the helm of Kentucky football, Levis has found a positive outlook.

“Whenever there’s stress or anxiety, it means there’s high expectations, so that’s a cool thing,” he said. “If you’re not nervous, it means the expectations aren’t high enough.”

And as Levis discovered this season, one way to build high expectations and establish yourself as a leader in a community is to play winning football.

“I remember when I was a little kid, looking up to players like me. I’m still a normal guy, a regular guy. To some other people, I’m a little more than that,” he said.

When he does experience moments where others look up to him, Levis said he likes to look back and realize how far he’s come. 

“Looking back … to be in the position I’m in right now, I know it’d make my younger self proud,” he said.

While he recognizes himself as a leader on his team and in the community, he doesn’t consider himself famous.

“I’m not just a football player, and I want to get involved with other things and get to know other people other than who I surround myself with every day because I can get tired of those people,” Levis laughed. “I don’t wanna see my teammates every single hour of the day.”

Levis said he wants to meet as many people as he can to become an “overall diversified human being.”

“All I ask is that if anyone sees me, to just come up and introduce yourself to me,” he said. “I love talking to anybody in the community.”

If the conversation happens to turn to citrus fruits, Levis will likely mention his dislike for blood oranges, a lesson he learned under a confetti shower after winning the Vrbo Citrus Bowl to finish his first season at Kentucky.

“I’d probably go with just a regular orange or a clementine,” he said.

But when one’s fruit basket is the top of a bowl trophy, there isn’t much variety.

Levis plans to use the offseason to set official goals for the next year … and make more TikToks.

One team goal that Levis expects to aim for again next season would solve his blood orange dilemma. Instead of a Citrus Bowl trophy, Levis has hopes to win the National Championship Trophy instead.