RMU coach: Ford City's Levcik has shot at NFL
As a record-setting quarterback at Robert Morris University the past four years, Tim Levcik has displayed his strong, accurate arm and demonstrated his ability to read defenses while keeping one eye on his receivers.
His other eye has been focused on the NFL.
Levcik, a Ford Cliff native and 1998 Ford City graduate, is poised to become the third player from Robert Morris to play in the NFL.
"It's always kind of been a dream of mine to get drafted," he said. "I just want a shot."
All signs point to him receiving that shot. Even if Levcik is not selected in the NFL draft in April, he'll likely be signed as a rookie free agent.
"Almost all the teams have been in to see him," said Joe Walton, Robert Morris' coach and a former Steelers offensive coordinator. "I don't think he's any secret.
"I think he'll definitely get signed."
Either way, Levcik realizes there's a long road ahead.
It's rare a player from a school the size of Robert Morris makes it to the NFL. Hank Fraley, whom the Steelers signed as a free agent two years ago only to lose on waivers to the Philadelphia Eagles, starts at center for the Eagles. But he is more the exception than the rule.
When Levcik arrived at Robert Morris, the school offered no scholarships. Though the Colonials play at the Division 1-AA level, they also play in the Northeast Conference, a league that receives little national publicity.
"Obviously, if you look around the league, the majority of players have competed at the major-college level," said Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert, who met with Levcik during last season. "Just because they play at 1-AA doesn't mean they can't play at this level.
"I don't think there's ever enough players at that position. I really don't. He should prepare himself for whatever opportunity presents itself."
Levcik did just that four years ago. Despite no scholarship, what Robert Morris did offer Levcik was an opportunity to play close to home under Walton and former Steelers assistant Dan Radakovich, both of whom still hold strong NFL ties.
Levcik, who was offered to walk on at Pitt, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Indiana, embraced his opportunity at Robert Morris and never looked back.
He became the Colonials' starting quarterback at halftime of his first game during his freshman season and led them to a 25-10 record as a starter the past four seasons. Along the way, he broke or tied nine school records.
It was a gamble on Walton's part to trust a freshman. Levcik didn't disappoint.
"When he came in, they're all the same, they struggle their freshman year with the learning curve," Walton said. "I just made up my mind, 'If we're going to make him our No. 1 guy ... let's put the kid in there and see how he does.' "
Levcik, all 6 feet 6, 230 pounds of him, took the NEC by storm. He completed 55 percent of his passes as a freshman for 1,726 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was named NEC Newcomer of the Week seven times en route to being named conference Newcomer of the Year.
During the next three seasons, Levcik was selected NEC Offensive Player of the Week six times, was named to the All-NEC first team and was chosen as conference Offensive Player of the Year twice.
All this despite only serving as Ford City's starting quarterback one year, his senior season.
"The thing that was so great about him was that he improved every year," Walton said from his vacation home in Puerto Rico. "He had not had a lot of high school experience as a quarterback. He had a lot to learn, but he just got better every year.
"He's got a very even-keel personality. He doesn't get rattled. He's a very tough kid, both physically and mentally."
Both are attributes that serve players well at the next level.
"NFL quarterback is a tough job," Walton said. "I've coached enough, I know."
Walton also knows Levcik has a realistic shot at sticking with an NFL team.
Though he was not invited to the NFL Combine beginning Feb. 28 in Indianapolis, where prospective draftees are graded athletically by scouts, Levcik plans to hold a combine of his own at Duquesne University in early March.
Through that, he hopes to legitimize himself as a prospect, not a gamble.
"They have to prove themselves a little stronger than the (players at) big schools do," Walton said. "Once they get a look, it's up to him."
That's all Levcik is asking for.
"I'm sure every kid in America growing up, watching the Super Bowl, says, 'Some day that could be me,' " Levcik said. "The past couple years I've thought about it more and more.
"It's in the back of your head. But you have college football to worry about. Robert Morris was my main focus."
That focus now has shifted to the NFL.