The great players always want to play against the best. That's what E.J. Levenberry Jr. is going to do in San Antonio, Texas, when he shows up for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Levenberry, the fourth-ranked outside linebacker in the country, is no stranger to competition. Now a senior at Woodbridge (Va.) C. D. Hylton, he was the only freshman in the storied history of Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha to start on the varsity squad.
"I've been competing since I was little," said the 6-foot-3, 226-pound Levenberry. "When I was at DeMatha, I competed against Cyrus Kouandjio, Arie Kouandjio, Shane Johnson and Jake Geiser, one of the best offensive lines in the history of Maryland football. At least one or two of the top linemen I've faced have played for national championships. I've played against top competition in Maryland, Virginia and Washington (D.C.), guys like Stefon Diggs and others. I think that's helped me in the long run because I'm a competitor. I'm happy to compete with all the guys down there, and hopefully all of us can do our thing and have fun down there."
This Florida State-bound linebacker understands the honor he is receiving as a U.S. Army All-American and is looking forward to sharing the experience with the others is San Antonio.
"It's a blessing," he said. "A lot of people don't get the chance to play any game like this, so I'm just blessed to have people around me to push me to be able to get to that level to be able to play this game.
"Over the years you see these guys and their tapes, and there are a lot of great players out there," Levenberry said. "I'm definitely not the best player out there by any means. I have a lot of work I need to put in to even get into that conversation. It's fun to be able to play at that high level of competition with these guys and talk to people that can relate to you about the recruiting process and just about life in general."
Levenberry was close to choosing Michigan or Oklahoma over the Seminoles, but he has been comfortable with this decision.
"I love the school," he said. "The people at the school are the thing that drove me to Florida State. They have my major, and I feel like they have the best people at that school. My dad and I have formed a great relationship with coach (Odell) Haggins, who is my recruiting coach, and he's my dad away from home. I feel like I can go call him up and talk to him about anything that happens. I just know that I have people down there that are going to support me, love me and push me at the same time, and that's basically why I picked Florida State. I love the university, and the university fits me."
Over the past few years, Florida State has brought some of the nation's top players to Tallahassee, so what are Levenberry's expectations going into his freshman year?
"I'm going to do whatever I can to help the team," he said. "I'm not worried about starting; that's the coaches' decision. I just want to help the team however they need to be helped. There's a bunch of great players down there, and I just want to fall into place and hopefully down the road, when I'm a senior, there will be freshmen doing the same thing.
"Everybody wants to start, but that's up to the coaches and you just have to put the work in," Levenberry said. "When you put that work in, you're helping everybody and the team get better. I'm just trying to help the team as much as I can."
In his senior season, Levenberry took his team to the state semifinals and recorded more than 150 tackles, two and a half sacks, one interception, 11 pass break-ups and two forced fumbles.
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