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When Levi Wentz signed with ODU on Signing Day in 2020, it was the completion of one journey, but the beginning of an even greater one.
Wentz, a three-star defensive back out of Pine-Richland High School in Pennsylvania, only played one year of high school football, but his journey to signing with the Monarchs was one that was, to put it in a word, unfathomable to most.
As a kid, Levi, along with his brother and sister, bounced in and out of foster homes until being adopted by the Wentz family in 2012.
“I grew up in foster care and had to basically raise my brother and sister. Kids like me aren’t supposed to make it out and I was blessed with the right people surrounding me to be able to be where I am today,” Levi told me back when he signed with the Monarchs in February of 2020.
“It has been a long journey and I'm blessed to be here,” Wentz said. “I'm ready to put in the work, play my role, compete and do what I have to do.”
Wentz chose the Monarchs over Army, Navy, and a host of Ivy League and FCS schools before signing and enrolling in August of 2020.
Now, with Wentz’s first college football game approaching as the Monarchs travel to Wake Forest to open their season tonight, Wentz prepares for a new challenge, that being his transition from defensive back to linebacker for Ricky Rahne’s Monarchs.
“I think with Levi, his natural athletic ability is very high, it’s just about developing all those other things in football that some guys get when they are 14, 15, 16 years old and he was just playing basketball,” Rahne remarked earlier in fall camp. “The football IQ stuff and just how to do a few things, for example. Football is not a real natural game so you have to be trained. I think he has made some huge strides and that athletic ability is going to really help us out in the end.”
“I came to ODU as a cornerback and got moved to safety when I got here,” Wentz said. “Then I got moved to outside linebacker, which I think fits me well. I’m excited to finally be in a position to sit and be able to learn and expand on what I have and hopefully make an impact on the field.”
Since arriving at ODU, Wentz had also put on about 25 pounds. That weight doesn’t stop his world-class speed, however, as during one practice this fall, Wentz blitzed from linebacker and was able to get a sack, repeating it on the very next play.
With only one year of high school football, a lot of what Wentz is learning is new. He is a raw talent, with the potential to become a very good linebacker. His athleticism and smarts are, however, his strong suit.
Wentz has even been able to apply some of what he learned playing high school basketball to help him get acclimated to his new position.
“I think LB is a great fit for me, especially with all the lateral movement,” Wentz remarked. “Obviously I can take that from basketball with defensive slides and all that stuff and relate it. I like to be down in the action where everything happens with all the helmets banging. I love it (playing LB). It hasn't been an easy transition by any means but it's been a challenge that I love.”
With the Monarchs opening on the road, Wentz will have to wait eight more days to make his debut in front of his new home, but he will have a taste of his old home as he is expecting a strong contingent of his family to be part of the crowd when Old Dominion plays Hampton on 9/11.
“I owe my family everything,” Wentz said. “The fact that they are going to travel seven and a half hours to come and see me play. It means the world to me. I have loved them my whole life.”
“I think it (family support) is big,” Rahne said. “ I think it’s big for a lot of our guys to be able to get their families back in the stands and to see them play football again. We have had a couple of chances but havent had enough of them. I think it’s huge.”
His family may only be a drop in the bucket when it comes to what could be a sellout crowd for the first game under Ricky Rahne.
“I can't wait until S.B. Ballard is full of fans,” Wentz said. “It’s a great environment. That was one of the things I loved most when I came down here to visit, was the atmosphere and the area. We are excited to get this place jumping.”
While Wentz is excited about his first game, he may be even more excited to showcase his talents in front of his new city, a city Wentz has fallen in love with since coming to Norfolk as a freshman.
“I've played in some big games, coming from the high school I went to but nothing like this,’ Wentz exclaimed. “Just to be able to put on for the city, the city that I’ve honestly fallen in love with. I'm just excited. I love it down here.”
The next chapter is only the start of a new journey for Wentz, one that he knows will continue past that first game and one that he knows he is fortunate to be on.
“I'm just extremely blessed, that's all I can say,” Wentz remarked. “I've made it a long way and I have more to come. I'm just excited for my story to keep going and I've been blessed by the people who have been put in my life and the opportunities I've been given.”
Rahne did reveal that Wentz will travel to Wake Forest with the team.
“ I expect him (Wentz) to do some good things,” Rahne said during his final talk with the media before tonight's opener. “I know he can really help us on special teams and things like that. He is very athletic and he can run and plays with passion. We are expecting big things.”
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