Thursday, September 20, 2012
BC punter Levano finally gets his chance
By Jack McCluskey
NEWTON, Mass. -- In the end, it's a waiting game.
Gerald Levano has been in the Boston College program for five years now. But before this season, he's never had a full-time role. At least, not one that people would notice.
Oh, sure, he was on the field in quite a few key moments prior to this season. But because he was the guy holding for the kicker, not the guy actually taking the kicks, you may not have noticed him.
Gerald Levano has served as kicker Nate Freese's holder, but now he's making a mark as the No. 1 punter.
The 6-foot-2, 201-pound Massapequa, N.Y., native is noticeable now. Since the record-setting Ryan Quigley graduated after last season, the Eagles brought Levano back for a fifth season to take over as punter.
And so Levano found himself on the field, all alone in the offensive backfield, for his first punt against Miami three weeks ago.
"Obviously I had some nerves," he said with a little laugh before practice Wednesday.
Those nerves weren't helped any by what he saw next: One of Miami's defenders feinted at the Boston College line, trying to cause the Eagles to false-start.
"It caught my attention and I noticed him doing that," Levano said. "Even though it got me a little nervous it almost made me seem like, 'He's not really paying attention to me as much,' and I could get my time to get the ball off.
"It's cool, though, you do notice things like that."
After spending four years waiting for a shot, stuck behind the prolific Quigley (the all-time leader in punt attempts for BC and the ACC, and with more than 10,000 career yards), Levano is making the most of the opportunity so far.
His average of 45.3 yards per punt is second in the ACC (behind only Duke punter Will Monday's 45.63) and 18th nationally.
"He's been fine," head coach Frank Spaziani said of Levano. "Down the road a little bit there's gonna be some more issues, we'll need the ball placed in certain situations but overall he's been fine for a whole new operation."
Which, Spaziani was quick to clarify, is not to suggest that there hasn't been some drop-off from Quigley.
"Quigley you tended to take for granted," Spaziani said, "and there were a lot of subtleties about Quigley's game last year that may not have surfaced. He did exactly what we wanted done and sacrificed a little bit of his own personal achievements for the team.
"He hung it up there nice. He had a golf shot, if you will. He could put it in there, fade it, draw it."
Spaziani does believe that Levano can get better at the finer aspects of the punt game, with more practical experience.
"We brought Gerald back for the reason that he's doing now," the coach said. "He understands what we want and he's doing a good job."
For his part, Levano said he didn't pick up much technically from Quigley because they have different styles but the departed punter did impart some wisdom.
"The one thing that Ryan told me is pretty much, 'Everyone does it their own way,'" Levano said. "And even looking at guys in the NFL now, no one really seems to do it in one specific style."
Levano earned a degree in marketing last year, and is currently working on a master's degree in management. He knows that attention to detail is important on and off the field.
"Punting is about centimeters, to be honest," he said. "If you miss the ball in any direction, it's the difference between a 50-yard punt and a 25-yard punt. I try to stay consistent within myself and know my own limitations rather than try to do what other people have done."
Having finally gotten his chance, he's just being himself.
"I'm trying to do my best," he said. "It's my time, I'm definitely trying to help the team."
And, of course, he has dreams of playing at the next level. He's followed the fortunes of his friend, Quigley, who latched on with the Chicago Bears after going undrafted, had a strong preseason and survived the final cutdown before being released Sept. 10 to make room for the team to sign an offensive lineman.
"Kicking and punting and stuff is really that type of waiting game, where you get your time and you have to perform," Levano said.
He hopes his friend gets a phone call soon from an NFL team that has a need for a punter. And in the meantime, Levano will be happy to share the wisdom he's gained over his years in Chestnut Hill.
"Hopefully I can help him with the whole waiting around part," he said with a smile, "I definitely have some experience with that."
Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.