Anthony Levine: Former demon part of dominant Raven’s season

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Bo Dalrymple, Online Editor

Anyone that has watched football games on Sunday afternoons in late December would likely have seen the Baltimore Ravens storm to first place in the American Football Conference. A part of this magical ride was RJ Reynolds alumnus Anthony Levine (‘05), who plays linebacker and safety for Baltimore. Although now apart of the “Ravens Flock,” it is evident Levine still bleeds black and gold.

Anthony was born in the small town of Abbeville, Louisiana, where he lived with his mother for 14 years. He moved in with his father in Winston-Salem before his eighth grade year and attended Wiley for a year before going onto Reynolds.

“It was tough, I didn’t know anybody, and I came from the real deep South so I had a really deep strong accent, nobody really understood me,” Levine said. “It was hard for me to get around, everything was kind of foreign because I had never been out of the state of Louisiana so everything was really different for me.”

While difficult at first, the move did not affect Levine as soon as he got to the track or football field, according to his former coach and mentor Derrick Speas, who used to coach track and football at Reynolds from 2001 to 2008. 

“To adjust to new friends, new coaches, new surroundings, he was able to do that and also succeed in sports,” Speas said. “He showed character as being able to adjust to new surroundings and the teaching and coaching while not getting caught up in everyday high school life.”

Levine credits his mentors and time at Reynolds with much of his professional success, where he participated on the football and basketball teams and ran track.    

“I met a lot of different people: I met my mentor Coach Speas, Mr. Felder, Dr. Kersch, Coach Probst, I met all these people, Mr Elrod our principle,” Levine said. “They had a very strong impact on my life; they saw something in me that made me keep working hard and keep pushing forward to pursue everything I have.” 

To his mentor Coach Speas, Levine stood out with his character and with Speas help was able to continue to the next level.

“He had it, things you can’t really coach, the intangibles… that was one of the things that stood out,” Speas said. “At 14 or 18 you have dreams but you don’t know how to get there, as an adult it is up to me to help maneuver your goals and dreams to where everything lines up”

Not only can the various coaches that worked with Levine be credited with his success but also the teachers of Reynolds, who work tirelessly in order for their students to achieve great things.

“Shoutout to Mrs. Sartin, she’s definitely my favorite teacher,” Levine said. “If it was not for her I do not know where I would be today, I love that lady so much.”

Levine specifically attributes his time on the track team as preparation for his a successful career in the National Football League.

“I think track really helped me… once you get to this level where I am now, it is all about muscle memory and things you have been doing to help you get to where you are now,” Levine said. “Running track helped me with my speed and endurance and how strong my lower body [is what] got me to where I am now.”

As a two time Super Bowl champion (Super Bowl 45 and 48), winning is nothing new to Levine. During his senior year at RJR, Levine and the track team won the state championship. He shared how special it was to compete with some of his best friends and what a great accomplishment it was to defeat some of the fastest runners in the state.

“I still have my ring from when I won the state, I am proud of that too and I have that up with my Super Bowl rings,” Levine said.

After his time at Reynolds, Levine went on to Tennessee State and in 2010 entered the NFL Draft. Levine was not a top prospect coming out of college, and had to prove himself in the combine. 

“I had to remind him that his dream was right now, if you want to change your family financial tree, have a foundation for your kids and grand kids to have a great financial opportunity now is the time,” Speas said. “He stepped up and took that, and not only did he have a great combine that day, he had the best combine for all safeties in his draft class.”

Miraculously, Levine went undrafted but was picked up by the Green Bay Packers where he tried out and made the practice squad. He was cut shortly after and picked up by the Ravens where since 2012, Levine has been apart of the active roster.

“I was there on draft night, I saw in his eyes the pain of not being called, but he had it in him still,” Speas said. “He went from not being drafted, he went for a tryout, he went from being cut twice, and now he is a two-time Super Bowl champion, has played 10 games in the NFL, and just finished his 116th consecutive game.”

It has been a culmination of his hard work over the years that has kept Levine in a league that for many players does not last long.

“One of my coaches from Green Bay texted me and said there are only three safeties left still playing in [my] draft class,” Levine said. “I feel like I have already exceeded all expectations, because the average time in the NFL is two and a half years and I have already exceeded that.”

Despite falling to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Divisional round January 11, Levine and the Ravens should still feel proud of the tremendous season they had. 

It is clear that the Reynolds community is certainly proud to see him playing at football’s highest stage each Sunday afternoon, and that he has had a tremendous impact, beyond just his success on the football field.

“It brings tears to my eyes to see a young person make it… just to know I impacted his life, to know that he allowed me into his life, and that he trusted me with his future means the world to me,” Speas said. “And for him to mention me in the same sentence as part of his success just cements what we mean to each other. The relationship is beyond just coach and athlete, it is part of me, and so he is family. I love him; I really appreciate that he allows me to be in his family’s life.”