BY JEFF FALK
One could say that Brendon Levengood is getting his kicks out of college. But it’s nothing that he hasn’t put into it.
Acquiring a very good college education at a great instituition in exchange for kicking a football sounds like a pretty good deal. And it is. But it hasn’t been all perfect holds and straight boots for the former Cedar Crest Falcon.
Levengood’s had to specialize, work hard, give up other pursuits and overcome injuries. And there was a time not so long ago, when ‘getting on scholarship’ was an iffy proposition.
“Yeah, I feel fortunate,” said Levengood, who went to UMass as a ‘preferred walk-on’. “Education today costs a lot of money. But if you work hard and get the school to pay for it, it feels great.
“Scholarships are year-to-year,” Levengood added. “It’s up to the coach, so you need to produce. You’ve got to make them want to keep you around.”
A former soccer/football player at Cedar Crest, Levengood is a red-shirted sophomore – he has two more years of eligibility remaining after this season – on the University of Massachusetts’ Division One football team. Once a kick-off specialist, Levengood is in his first season of handling all the place-kicking chores for the Minutemen.
“It was a huge risk coming here,” said Levengood, a 2009 graduate of CCHS. “I was paying out of my pocket for the first year. But I knew I has the ability. I just had to show them (the Minutemen coaches) I had the ability.”
Pretty much a soccer player growing up, Levengood began place kicking for the Falcon football program as a sophomore. He attended some college football camps – including UMass’ – as a junior, but sprained his MCL before his senior season of football and soccer.
He kicked in only the last three CC football games of his senior year, two of which he used his left foot.
“I was being recruited for kicking, but after I got hurt, some of the schools stopped talking to me,” said Levengood. “Massachusetts told me if I earned a starting spot they’d give me a scholarship.
“When I came up here, I kicked for the head coach,” Levengood added. “He said, ‘You have the ability. Send me your junior highlight tape.’ I didn’t have a senior highlight tape because I was hurt.”
Levengood spent his first year at UMass on the scout team and was red-shirted. Last season, he earned his scholarship by kicking off 51 times for an average of 55 yards per boot, with two touchbacks.
Recalling the day he found out that he had officially secured the scholarship was not difficult for Levengood.
“I was number one on the depth chart,” said Levengood. “The head coach called me into his office and said he’d like to help me out financially. That’s when I got the scholarship.
“It was huge,” said Levengood. “I was excited. I called my parents, but it was like a huge relief. My parents told me that if it didn’t work out, I’d probably have to come home because I couldn’t afford the out-of-state tuition.
“I don’t know exactly how much it’s worth. I’m responsible for my books. But it covers my classes and housing. It covers a large amount.”
In the Minutemen’s opener two weeks ago, a 24-16 win at Holy Cross, Levengood went three-for-three on points-after-touchdowns and nailed a 25-yard field goal.
“During the game, I really try to stay not too focused, not too mentally involved,” said Levengood. “I want to relax. I talk to the punter and stay calm. Once we start getting around the 50-yard line, I get ready, kick into a net on the sidelines. Then I go stand right next to the coaches.”
So with his scholarship secured, how far can Levengood go?
“The longest field goal I hit in practice is 65 yards,” said Levengood. ‘But I had some wind behind my back. Most days at practice, I go back to 50 yards and I feel comfortable there.
“I really think it is mostly mental,” Levengood concluded. “A lot of guys do have the ability to do it. You just have to have the mental make-up to do in games what you’ve done over and over in practice.”