Anthony Levine’s hard work and opportunity a recipe for success

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— The Baltimore Ravens may have found some help for the cornerback position during their win over the Tennessee Titans before entering the bye week. Surprisingly, defensive back Anthony Levine was named the starter opposite veteran Lardarius Webb. This decision was unexpected because Levine spent most of his time on special teams and playing safety. Levine made the most of this opportunity, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because he has been a scrapper throughout his tenure in the NFL.

Tennessee State University isn’t exactly a football factory, although one of their players, Claude Humphrey was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past summer. Anthony Levine was not guaranteed a spot on an NFL roster like some players who are drafted from big time schools. He was signed by the Green Bay Packers as a rookie free agent in 2010 and spent most of the next two seasons on the practice squad.

The Ravens signed Levine to the practice squad in September of 2012. He was added to their active roster the day before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 18, 2012. In that game against the Steelers, Levine got his first taste of what it’s like to actually play in an NFL game. He saw time as part of the special teams unit. Levine recorded his first tackle as a part of the special teams a week later against the San Diego Chargers. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury landed him on injured reserve.

Levine came back in 2013 and has carved a niche as a special teams ace. He was second on the team with 11 special teams tackles. Being productive on special teams requires a lot of work. Players have to run down the field full speed multiple times in practice. It requires that a player have no fear on the football field and especially so on coverage units. Some of the most violent collisions occur on kickoff and punt coverage.

Playing special teams was Levine’s ticket to making the active roster but his versatility in being able to play both safety and corner is really what made him valuable. He worked hard to put himself in a position that would make the coaches have to let him see the field on defense. An early injury to Webb, Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson allowed Levine to get a look at corner during the preseason. He continued to work hard and to be prepared to step up not only on special teams but on defense as well.

The injury bug struck the Ravens cornerbacks again as Asa Jackson was already on injured reserve and Jimmy Smith joined him. The Ravens were not happy with the subpar play from Chykie Brown or Dominique Franks so they were released. The table was set for Levine.

Head coach John Harbaugh approached Levine on Sunday morning to find out if he was ready to take out. He asked Levine what his game plan was. Levine had the perfect answer. “I told him, ‘I’m going to compete coach’” Levine said. Levine must have said the right thing because Harbaugh told him that he would be the starter.

Levine’s preparation and hard work did not go unnoticed by the Ravens coaching staff. In fact, that was the deciding factor when they had to choose between Levine and the newly signed Danny Gorrer after his release by the Detroit Lions. Harbaugh was impressed with the way that Levine played against the Tennessee Titans in his first start. Levine had four tackles and two pass breakups causing Harbaugh to praise his efforts.

“Anthony Levine played really good football out there,” said Harbaugh. “It’s something that we’ve kind of been watching for a number of weeks and months.” He continued, “He gets better every single week. I guess we’re not going to call him a safety anymore. He deserves to be called a corner.”

Even though he played primarily at safety this year, Levine says that he has been playing corner since the preseason. He appreciated the fact his coach calls him a corner now and was very thankful for them giving him a chance.

“I was happy, I was humbled. I’m glad that coach Harbaugh believed in me, him and coach Spags [Spagnuolo] and coach [Dean] Pees [defensive coordinator]. They believed in me, and I go out there and I compete every day in practice.” Levine said. “Coach Spags sent me a text and he was like, ‘Be ready,’ I didn’t know what that meant. I was just like, I’m going to go out there and compete in practice and I ended up starting.”

Levine was a standout athlete at RJ Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He was an All-State linebacker, kick returner and punt returner. Levine also ran the 100 and 200-meter dash along with the 4×100, 4×200 relay for his high school’s championship team.

His work ethic has spilled over to community events. He has taken part in the NFL Play60 events such as the Hispanic Heritage Youth Football clinic and Ravens TEAM Challenge Hometown Huddle in Baltimore. It’s safe to say that he has earned a spot in the Ravens defensive back rotation in the near future.