Give DeAndre Levy His Due Respect. And That Beard, Too

Friday August 14th, 2015

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — On a recent morning at the Lions’ training facility, DeAndre Levy was the last defensive player out on the practice field. Just a few days after signing a four-year, $33 million contract extension, the outside linebacker hadn’t strayed from his post-practice routine. He usually grabs a young offensive player with a lot of energy—on this day it was rookie running back Ameer Abdullah—to practice pass coverage. Then, he moved over to the tackling dummies. “Linebackers, we’ve got to tackle. That’s our No. 1 job,” Levy says. “Quarterbacks can throw every day, receivers can catch every day, but linebackers can’t really tackle every day. So I try to simulate as best as I can.” It’s the extra work like this that helped Levy, who is entering his seventh NFL season, become one of the league’s best linebackers in 2014. We caught up with him for a one-on-one conversation during our training camp tour.

THE MMQB: You have an interesting beard. How long have you had it?

 

LEVY: Thank you. About three years. I’ve trimmed it a few times. I haven’t trimmed it in probably six months now. It’s all natural, baby.

 

THE MMQB: Did you really slide down a volcano this offseason?

 

LEVY: I did. In León, Nicaragua. They offer tours where you hike up for about an hour, carry your board and slide down. It’s fun. I wiped out pretty good, though. The ash was not hot. It was real fine, almost like thicker chunks of sand. So it was safe-feeling.

 

I don't always go sledding, but when I do, it's down an active volcano. Leon, Nicaragua. #BigFootHostel #CerroNegro

A photo posted by DeAndre Levy (@dre_levy) on

 

THE MMQB: Early in your career, you weren’t an impact player. But the last couple years, you have really elevated your game. What happened?

 

LEVY: Probably the main thing that contributed to it was trying to maximize each day, as opposed to just going out there. I worked, and I’d go in the weight room, but I wasn’t in there with a distinct purpose [early on], trying to get the absolute most out of every day. I would look and say, ‘OK, I’m working compared to this guy or compared to that guy.’ But for me, I’ve got to go harder than that. I’ve got to get the most out of each day, each rep. Every day I get up and work out, I try to make sure by the end of the day that I know I put my all into it, and the results have translated. There have been a lot of things, but that’s probably the biggest thing, just getting up and going out with a purpose every day.

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THE MMQB: Is that why you do all this extra work on your own after practice?

 

LEVY: Yeah, I try to do a little bit each day. Depending on how I feel, a little more, a little less. The little things I need to work on. I was working with Ameer, he’s a quick guy, on one-on-one coverage, and then afterwards I went to the tackling dummy. I was kind of working on tackling with Ameer, too, because he’s so shifty. It’s the same principles, of staying on the inside hip. I try to get one of the backs, usually the younger guys, because they are still fresh.

 

THE MMQB: A lot of players’ careers don’t last long enough to sign a third contract. Yours has. Were there times earlier in your career when you weren’t sure you would get to this point?

 

LEVY: Yeah, a few years early on, I was kind of over football a little bit, I would say. I was just kind of out there, going through the motions. But I felt like I was letting myself down and doing a disservice to myself, my family, my teammates and all the people who helped me get here. Now I’ve kind of just attacked things head on. You only can do this for a short period of time. I figured I’d go as hard as I can, and if I burned out after six, seven years, fine. As long as I gave it my all. That’s cool. But if it’s eight, nine, 10 years, that’s even better.

 

THE MMQB: What triggered the change in your mindset?

 

LEVY: Just knowing that when it was all done, [the idea of] looking back and knowing that I didn’t give it my all was probably one of the scarier things in life. Looking back and having regrets, even beyond football. In life. People talk about my travels and my trips. That’s all about just embracing the moment, embracing the now of things. Right now I’m a professional football player, so I want to give my all in that.

 

A photo posted by DeAndre Levy (@dre_levy) on

 

A young Hotu Matu'a. No photo could do this site justice. #AhuTongariki

A photo posted by DeAndre Levy (@dre_levy) on

 

#Superfly #JimmySnuka

A photo posted by DeAndre Levy (@dre_levy) on

 

#Vegas

A photo posted by DeAndre Levy (@dre_levy) on

 

THE MMQB: Do you feel like you aren’t recognized yet as one of the great defensive players in the game, even though your film shows that you are?

 

LEVY: I think it takes a couple more years. A lot of times when you look at lists or rankings, they are based off of guys’ cumulative bodies of work. I think last year, I was one of the better players on defense, but I don’t think one year earns you the respect you should get. I’ve got to do it year in and year out, and early on, I don’t think I did that.

 

THE MMQB: One part of your game where you seemed to take a big step forward in 2014 was run defense. How did you improve in that area?

 

LEVY: It’s part scheme, part mentality. If someone comes wanting to run the ball, we’ve got to have in our mind that’s not allowed, from front to back, not just myself. We’ve got to come up with that mentality. The year before I had six picks and a ton of PBUs, so I think maybe some of my plays in the run game got overlooked a little bit. But I was more consistent last year, and last year was my first time truly playing the “Will” [weakside] linebacker. My previous years in the scheme, it was just right and left. I was always on the left, so sometimes I was “Sam,” and sometimes I was “Will.” I was getting some of the same looks, so I could react a little bit quicker.

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THE MMQB: 4-3 outside linebackers seem always to get overlooked for the Pro Bowl and other all-star accolades. Do you feel that is the case?

 

LEVY: I think so. You look at some of the guys out there, and there is no doubt in my mind that I was one of the better outside linebackers last year, along with [Tampa Bay’s] Lavonte David. The year before, when he had five picks and seven sacks, he got overlooked. That was probably a bigger robbery than you could think, but that’s the way it’s set up. I don’t make complaints; it’s my job to go out there and make plays and be the best I can for my team.

 

THE MMQB: After you signed your contract, you said David should be next, and that he’d probably get a little bit more than you. You were right on both counts. Is there a camaraderie that exists amongst 4-3 outside linebackers?

 

LEVY: 4-3 outside guys have gotta stick together, man. [David] is one of the guys, when there is crossover film, I watch him. He stands out a lot. He’s kind of similar to me—a smaller, quicker guy who makes plays in the pass and the run game. He deserves it.

 

THE MMQB: What does it say that players like you, David and Bobby Wagner—guys who aren’t the edge rushers with the huge sack numbers—are getting paid?

 

LEVY: I think that says something. Those other guys are great at what they do, rushing the passer, but some of the off-the-ball guys, we’ve got to be equally good in coverage and against the run. We might not get as many sacks, we don’t blitz as much, but being a complete player, being able to defend the pass and the run—that’s a valuable asset to any team.

 

THE MMQB: The Lions made it back to the playoffs last season, but what’s the key to getting over the hump and making a deep postseason run?

 

LEVY: A couple years ago, we made the playoffs, and guys came back with the expectation that we would do that or better. We’ve gotta attack each day like last year didn’t happen. Playoffs can’t be the end-all for us. If we just say, “OK, getting to the playoffs is good enough for us,” then we are setting our goals too low. We’ve gotta come out here with a purpose each day. We shouldn’t expect 12 or 13 wins because we had 11 last year. We’ve gotta go out and earn each one. Every year is a new opportunity for each team, even some of the worst teams last year, so everybody has the same starting point.

 

THE MMQB: You’ve been a pretty quiet player in the past, but you seem more willing now to put yourself out there publicly and talk to the media. Why?

 

LEVY: It’s just trying to be here now. I don’t really like being known or recognized, but I’ve got a whole lifetime after football to be anonymous. I’ve tried to just shift that little bit.

 

THE MMQB: You said the first thing you’d do after signing your contract was buy two solid gold food dishes for your dog, Solomon, a Staffordshire terrier. Did you?

 

LEVY: No. He doesn’t have expensive taste.

 

 

#TBT

A photo posted by DeAndre Levy (@dre_levy) on

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