Marshall’s Levias reaping rewards
TAMPA, Fla. — Patience is power.
Nobody knows that better than Armani Levias.
Marshall University’s 6-foot-4, 247-pound tight end could have complained when the Thundering Herd coaching staff asked Levias to redshirt during the 2017 season.
In fact, Levias could have refused.
But he didn’t.
The result was the beginning of Levias’ surprising success story for Marshall during the 2018 season.
Heading into the Gasparilla Bowl vs. South Florida at 8 p.m. Thursday here in Raymond James Stadium, Levias is the Herd’s third-leading receiver with 25 catches for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
Did anybody see that coming?
Except, perhaps, Levias, who patiently waited until he was in the right place at the right time.
It all started with his redshirt year in 2017.
Bill Legg was the offensive coordinator then and utilized tight end Ryan Yurachek in the slot, who responded with 54 catches for 490 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Levias didn’t fit that offense.
But when Legg was replaced by Tim Cramsey, the new offensive coordinator’s system called for a big, strong, proto-typically sized tight end.
It was simply a matter of how dedicated Levias would be because he needed to greatly improve both his conditioning and blocking.
“I came in a little overweight at 260 pounds,” said the native of Pittsburg, California.
“The first day was tough on me. But the strength coaches pushed me to my limit and I’ve been seeing the results since I got here.
“And I was never that good at blocking.
“But (tight end) Coach (Todd) Goebbel and I worked hard on it since I got here.
“That’s one thing I’ve been priding myself on, trying each game to block a little bit better, better hand placement and better eye placement.
“I worked on that all last year when I was being red-shirted.
“When you are red-shirted you are on the scout team a lot, so you definitely are going to be blocking against the No. 1 defense.
“I think that helped me even more with my game.”
Otherwise, the change in styles was perfect for Levias because he was the only big tight end on Marshall’s 2018 roster.
Yet, it still turned into a best of both worlds situation for him as Levias took care of his blocking chores, but also caught at least one pass in each of Marshall’s 12 games.
He also takes pride in his 13.1-yard per catch average.
“Before I was a quarterback in high school, I was a running back/′ revealed Levias.
“So, the skill with the ball in my hand comes from that.
“I always have had a niche with the ball in my hands.
“I’m always been able to make people miss and carry people for 10-plus yards.
“That was the easy part for me. Developing my skills in blocking was where I had to improve the most.”
And, now, here he is.
After having to watch his Marshall teammates play in the 2017 New Mexico Bowl, Levias will be in the starting lineup for Marshall on Thursday night here.
That is how much he has improved and how far Levias has traveled in one season.
“It was tough on me to just watch my brothers play and not be able to help,” he said.
“Now, this year, I’m just happy and excited because I’ll get to play.”
All because of Levias’ steadfast belief in three words.
Patience is power.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at email@example.com.