INDIANAPOLIS – If confidence is your thing, then have we got a quarterback for you.
Kentucky’s Will Levis, a likely top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, spoke Friday at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine and — in under 15 minutes — presented himself as arguably the most self-assured QB in this year’s class.
“Yeah, I mean, my goal is to win more than anybody,” Levis said. “I want to be the greatest of all time. Like, you’re crazy if you don’t think that way.”
For some, however, Levis is a complicated evaluation.
He earned rave reviews in the 2021 season after transferring from Penn State, throwing for 24 touchdowns and running for nine more scores with the Wildcats and firmly planting himself on the NFL radar after having had only two starts in two seasons coming in.
Last season, however, didn’t go quite as well. Kentucky switched offensive coordinators and lost some key talent at receiver and offensive line. The 6-foot-3, 232-pound Levis also was saddled with two major injuries: a painful turf toe and a (non-throwing) left shoulder injury. His numbers dropped off almost across the board — especially as a runner — as a result.
But NFL scouts remain intrigued. And Levis remains confident. Highly so, in fact.
Asked why he chose to throw at the combine — Alabama’s Bryce Young is one top QB who will not — Levis wasn’t about to hit the brakes on his belief in himself.
“Because I’ve got a cannon,” Levis said, “and I want to show it off.”
Arm talent is, of course, one element of the position. But does he possess all the other qualities and traits necessary to be successful at the highest level of football? Once again, Levis wasn’t shy about his ability.
“I mean, I think right now I can bring them a championship team, you know? That’s the confidence I have,” Levis said when asked what he can bring to an NFL team as a rookie. “I think I’m able to assimilate myself very, very well — better than anybody else, I believe.
“That’s the confidence I have just due to my experience and just due to my physical tools, I think that I’m gonna be able to be plugged into any offense, learn it well and become a leader very quickly.”
Through the course of his answer, Levis did explain that he knows he’s not yet a finished product.
“Obviously, the goal is to progress,” he said. “I’m gonna get better every year. I’m not expecting myself to be the best quarterback in the league right off the bat. But, I mean, that’s just what development is all about. And that’s what I’m gonna lean on the coaches and staff and the players around me to help me get to that level.”
Under offensive coordinator Liam Coen in 2021, Levis and the Wildcats thrived offensively in a 10-3 season, averaging 425.4 yards and 32.3 points per game. Last season, saddled with the injuries and working with a new coordinator (Rich Scangarello, who had been the 49ers QB coach), UK averaged 324.7 yards and 20.4 points while going 7-6.
Levis missed a game against South Carolina with a foot injury and struggled at times after returning. Even before he got hurt, the QB run game had been far less emphasized under Scangarello than it had under Coen, taking a big element out of Levis’ game. But Levis feels that the challenges he faced have helped toughen him.
“I think this past year, the season didn’t go as well as we would have wanted it to,” he said. “But I mean, I learned a lot from it. I learned how to kind of battle through adversity and just dealt with a lot of things physically.
“I think it just made me a better kind of player (and) a better quarterback because of it.”
Levis understands that he has his fair share of doubters, both inside and out of the league. Yet he knows he’s in exactly the right place this week to solidify himself as a high draft pick and possibly as the first quarterback taken. All it takes is the right team to be enamored with his fiery traits — namely that bazooka arm and the bravado to match.
“I don’t focus on things I can’t control, but I want to be selected as high as possible,” he said. “At the end of the day, I just want the team that believes in me. I’ve gotta make somebody fall in love with me. And that’s all it takes.”