A DAD AND A FOOTBALL PLAYER: Ottawa Redblacks Patrick Levels motivated from an early age

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If Patrick Levels wasn’t motivated enough as a teenager – surviving in a rough Dallas neighborhood and trying to prove the doubters wrong – he got a warning shot at age 16; his girlfriend was pregnant.

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Becoming a father at 17 gave more focus to a young footballer chasing his dreams. This also added a goal, a reason to push harder. And now, with so much life ahead of him – with so many chapters of his history yet to be written – Levels, a defensive back/linebacker with the Ottawa Redblacks, feels blessed. Grateful for faith, family, friends and football. Along the way, Patrick Levels not only became a good football player, but also a good father. His son — Jay’Lynn, now 10 — is living with him this summer.

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“Everyone has a story,” said Levels, who turned 28 three weeks ago. “It was tough at times. But I don’t regret anything that happened to me in life because it made me the grinder I am today. I’m the person who sees everything in a positive light because it was so negative at one point. I wake up every day with a positive mindset because I know it’s been worse and it could be worse.

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“When I found out that I was going to have a son, it was before I committed to a university. It became more than myself. When you have your own child and that person is counting on you, it changes your perspective. It helped me grow a little faster than I would have. He was my first motivator. It really kicked me into a new gear – that I had to achieve something My drive went from 100 to 200. I need to make sure he has a better life than mine, that was my whole focus then and still is today.

Levels had helped take care of his little brother (Alonzo, who is also staying with him this summer) and his sister, so he had plenty of experience in mum and dad business – changing nappies, warming milk bottles and put the kids to bed. Being a dad, however, is much more than that. Learned levels. Day by day.

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“Whenever (my brother and sister) cried, I could give them back to my mother,” he said. “But when it’s yours, it’s your responsibility.” This creates an unbreakable bond.

While Levels lived in Oak Cliff, a low-income neighborhood, his “Grammy” Julie lived in Pleasant Grove. Every morning, Levels and his mother Michelle got up at 5 a.m., got on a train, and drove the hour and a half to his grandmother so he could go to a “better” school.

“We lived in a bad place, so they tried to get me to the best school they could – outside the area,” Levels said. “As a young child, I was mentally mature. I saw that things that were bad didn’t lead anyone to anything different. I didn’t need anyone to show me what was good, I I just saw what was wrong. I wanted to make my grandmother proud of all the sacrifices she made. I didn’t want to let anyone down. I was doing all the right things, I was doing the opposite of what was my environment They called me the golden kid – my grades were good, I didn’t miss school, I didn’t do anything to get in trouble, I stayed away from drugs and things like that, I didn’t get any tattoos, I just did things very differently because I wanted a different result.

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A year after the birth of her son, Levels’ Grammy winner — her biggest supporter — passed away. It was a huge loss; she had been a huge inspiration, a shoulder to lean on, and it was she who had agreed to pay his football registration fees.

“Before every game, I pray to let her know that I appreciate her bringing me here,” Levels said.

The football pitch has always brought comfort to Levels. He started playing when he was three years old. He wasn’t the biggest child. He was tenacious; he had fire in his stomach. From 2012 to 2016, he was a key player at Baylor University. Roll of honor. All star. Complete set.

“Football is something I fell in love with,” said Levels, who is 5-foot-11 and 187 pounds. “Nobody had to push me to want to do more. I was a smaller guy so I always had a chip on my shoulder. I would hear it: ‘You’re too small, you’re too small.’ And I thought, ‘OK, let me show you what a little guy can do.’ I was motivated to prove everyone wrong. That’s what got me to this point. You can’t judge the heart. It doesn’t matter if you’re 6-foot-9 and 350 pounds – if you don’t. don’t have a heart, you won’t get there My work ethic got me through a lot of my big issues. I never take anything for granted. I don’t think I owe anything. Everything I do is appreciated. And everything I receive is appreciated.

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Once again, the story returns to Mila, the four-year-old daughter of Jay’Lynn and Levels. Being a dad means the world to Levels; his heart is full.

“In college, my goal was to try to get to the NFL and take care of my whole family,” he said. “I had my mother to support me, helping me take care of my son. She said to me, ‘Hey, if this is your dream, we’re all going to work together as a family to make sure you succeed. This is the support I needed to continue. And while I was there, there was never a let down in me. I was like, ‘I have someone counting on me.’

Jay’Lynn is your typical 10 year old. He loves action figures, WWE (especially Roman Reigns and The Usos). And while Levels loves the Dallas Cowboys, the Arizona Cardinals are his son’s team. He is also a huge fan of Levels Redblacks teammate Money Hunter (“he loves Money, he thinks Money is the greatest DB since Deion Sanders”). Every day, Levels and Jay’Lynn kick a soccer ball. Bonding. Father and son stuff.

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The son counts on his father to get better, to work harder.

“He’s my biggest critic,” Levels said with a laugh. “When I get home he’s like, ‘You missed that’ or ‘Why didn’t you knock the ball out of that guy’s hand?’ This is constructive criticism and it comes from a genuine place. He is rooting for me; I know he just wants to see me be the best. He definitely makes it easier. I can go home and see my son there – it makes me happy.

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Levels began his CFL career in Calgary in 2017, spending two seasons as a Stampeder. After two years with the Montreal Alouettes (he had signed to play for Hamilton during the canceled 2020 season), he joined the Rouge et Noir as a free agent. He knows he has judged every game, every game and every year. So he wants to stay on top of his game. In 2019, he had 86 tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbles. As a Rouge et Noir, he had 19 tackles and a sack in five games.

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“Football is my priority right now, that’s 110 per cent what I think,” he said. “But when it comes to the off season, it’s family first. The love for both is there. I call my family, talk to them, tell them I’m fine. But as for being on the phone every day, I can’t do that because I have to be in my playbook and studying with the guys, trying to build chemistry here.

Every day is a learning experience – as a football player, as a person, as a son and as a father. Levels navigates his journey, trying to do the right things, knowing that his decisions impact others.

“You have things that come up and choices to make,” he said. “Life can change at any time and I never take anything for granted. I learned that when it comes to children, it’s not about how much money you spend, it’s about how long you spend. I think I’m fine, but at the same time I still want to improve. I want to give (Jay’Lynn) the opportunity to just be a kid – something that I haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to do.

“Having a child when you are young changes you. But it was a blessing in disguise to me. There are dark days when all I think about is my kids and that drives that motivation in me. I heard the negativity, people saying I was going to be a statistic, that good football players always fall sideways. But opinions are not facts. And that’s what I live for.

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