A FATHER AND A SOCCER PLAYER: Patrick Levels of the Ottawa Redblacks was motivated from a young age

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If Patrick Levels wasn’t motivated enough as a teenager — surviving in a tough Dallas neighborhood and trying to prove the doubters wrong — he got a wake-up call at 16; his girlfriend was pregnant.

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Becoming a father at 17 sharpened the focus of a young soccer player pursuing his dreams. It also an added purpose, a reason to push harder. And now, with so much life ahead of him – with so many chapters of his story yet to be written – Levels, a defenseman/linebacker for the Ottawa Redblacks, feels blessed. Grateful for faith, family, friends and football. Over time, Patrick Levels not only became a good soccer player, he also became a good father. His son – Jay’Lynn, who is now 10 years old – is staying with him this summer.

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“Everyone has a story,” said Levels, who turned 28 three weeks ago. “It was hard sometimes. 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 positively because it used to be so negative. I wake up every day with a positive attitude because I know it was worse and could be worse.

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“When I found out I was going to have a son, that was before I decided on college. It was about more than just myself. When you have your own child and that person is counting on you, your perspective changes. It helped me grow up a little faster than I would have. He was my first motivator. It really threw me into a new gear – that I had to be successful at something. My drive went from 100 to 200. I have to make sure he has a better life than me; that was my focus then and still is today.”

Levels had been helping to look after his little brother (Alonzo, who is also staying with him this summer) and sister, so he had plenty of experience with dad and mom stuff – changing nappies, warming milk bottles and putting children to bed. However, being a father is so much more than that. Levels learned. Daily.

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“Whenever[my brother and sister]cried, I could give them back to my mother,” he said. “But if it’s yours, it’s your responsibility. It builds the 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 5am, got on a train and drove an hour and a half to see his grandmother so he could go to a “better” school.

“We lived in a bad place, so they were trying to get me into the best possible school — outside of the area,” Levels said. “As a young child, I was spiritually mature. I saw that things that were bad didn’t lead anyone to anything else. I didn’t need anyone to show me what was right, I just saw what was wrong. I wanted to make my grandma proud of all the sacrifices she made. I didn’t want to let anyone down. I did everything right, I did everything the opposite of what was around me. 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 stuff like that, I didn’t get tattoos. I just did a lot of things differently because I wanted a different result.”

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A year after the birth of his son, Levels’ Grammy – his biggest supporter – died. It was a great loss; She’d been a huge inspiration, a shoulder to lean on, and she’d been the one who campaigned 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 soccer field always brought comfort to levels. He started playing when he was three years old. He wasn’t the biggest kid. He was stubborn; he had fire in his stomach. From 2012 to 2016 he was a key figure at Baylor University. roll of honor. All Star. total package.

“Football was something I fell in love with,” said Levels, who is listed as 5-foot-11, 187 lbs. “Nobody had to push me to want 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 was like, ‘Okay, let me show you what a little guy can do.’ I was motivated to prove everyone wrong. That got me to this point. You can’t judge heart. It doesn’t matter if you’re 6ft 9 and weigh 350 pounds — if you don’t have a heart, you won’t make it. My work ethic got me over many of my size issues. I never take anything for granted. I don’t think I owe anything. Everything I do is appreciated. And everything I get is appreciated.”

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Again, the story goes back to Mila, the four-year-old daughter of Jay’Lynn and Levels. Being a father means the world to levels; his heart is full.

“In college my focus was on getting into the NFL and taking care of my whole family,” he said. “I had my mother who supported me and helped take care of my son. She said, ‘Hey, if this is your dream, we will all work together as a family to make sure you are successful. It’s the support I needed to keep going. And while I was there, there was never an end to me. I thought, ‘I have someone who is counting on me.’

Jay’Lynn is a typical 10-year-old. He likes action figures, WWE (especially Roman Reigns and The Usos). And while Levels likes the Dallas Cowboys, the Arizona Cardinals are his son’s team. He’s also a big fan of Money Hunter, teammate of Levels Redblacks (“He loves Money; he thinks Money is the greatest DB since Deion Sanders.”) Every day, Levels and Jay’Lynn throw a football around. Connection. Father Son Stuff.

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The son challenges his father to become better, to work harder.

“He’s my biggest critic,” Levels said, laughing. “When I come home he’s like, ‘You missed that,’ or ‘Why didn’t you hit the ball out of that guy’s hand?’ It’s constructive criticism and it comes from a real place. He cheers me on; I know he just wants to see that I’m the best. He definitely makes it easier. I come home and see my son there – that makes me happy.”

Levels began his CFL career in Calgary in 2017 and spent two seasons as a Stampeder. After two years with the Montreal Alouettes (he had signed with Hamilton for the canceled 2020 season), he joined the Redblacks as a free agent. He knows he judged every game, every game, every year. So he wants to stay up to date. In 2019, he had 86 tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbles. As a red-black, he has 19 tackles and a sack in five games.

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“Football is my priority at the moment, that’s 110 percent what concerns me,” he said. “But when the off-season comes, family comes first. The love for both is there. I call my family, talk to them, let them know I’m fine. But being on the phone every day, I can’t do that because I have to be in my textbook and study with the guys and try to develop the chemistry here.

Every day is a learning experience – as a footballer, as a person, as a son and as a father. Levels navigates his journey, trying to do the right things and knowing that his choices affect others.

“You have things that come up and decisions to make,” he said. “Life can change at any time and I don’t take anything for granted. I’ve learned that having kids isn’t about the money you spend, it’s about the time you spend on it. I think I’m fine, but at the same time I always want to get better. I want to give (Jay’Lynn) the opportunity to just be a kid, something 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 for me. There are dark days when all I think about is my kids and that drives me. I’ve heard the negativity people said I would be a statistic that good football players always fall off the side. But opinions are not facts. And that’s what I live on.”

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