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Friday, Dec 8, 2023 | Latest Print Edition

Walk-on linebacker awarded scholarship at practice

Jake Levant (46) makes a tackle against Mississippi State on Nov. 13, 2021 in Auburn, AL.
Jake Levant (46) makes a tackle against Mississippi State on Nov. 13, 2021 in Auburn, AL.

Head coach Bryan Harsin called his players to midfield following practice on Saturday, and it resulted in a team celebration.

Shortly after, the stadium announcer in Jordan-Hare announced to fans at the open practice that sophomore linebacker Jake Levant had earned a full scholarship to play for the Tigers.

“It was surreal," Levant said. "It took me a second to realize what was happening because one second (Harsin) was calling me out for putting my hands up (in a drill), and all of a sudden people were jumping on me.”

A moment that was so sweet, earned by blood, sweat and tears, started out with a moment of confusion, Harsin said. 

When he announced Levant's scholarship, he did so with a bit of trickery. Special teams coordinator Roc Bellantoni started out by calling out Levant for throwing his hands up to avoid a penalty. The coach explained that it makes you look guilty to throw your hands up, and you should just keep playing normally through the whistle. Harsin then took everyone off guard by saying that Levant not only looked guilty, but he was guilty- of earning a full scholarship. 

A few head nods and faces deep in thought ensued with a moment of processing his words. When everyone processed what Harsin had said, a celebration broke out. Levant said he was "swallowed" by his teammates amid the process.

Levant and his teammates apparently had no hint of the news of the scholarship coming, so it came as a complete surprise to everyone except Harsin and his staff. The reaction from his teammates was just the byproduct of the bond the team shares.

“It just shows the family we’ve built," Levant said. "All the things we’ve been through together, it draws us closer. I love every single one of those guys and they all love me, so I’m really proud to be a part of this family.”

Levant, who came to Auburn in 2020, has played in minimal fashion in his two seasons with the Tigers. He has appeared on special teams and saw the field in eight games in 2021. He made one solo tackle against Mississippi State.

Reigning from Vestavia Hills, Alabama, Levant said that his decision to come to Auburn was a decision that allowed him to follow in his family's example. The linebacker had a few scholarship offers from smaller schools, including UAB and Tulane, but all of his four older siblings attended Auburn University, and playing for the Tigers allowed him to follow in their footsteps. 

"I had four siblings that came to Auburn- four older siblings," Levant said. "My whole family has been here. It's just a family environment and that's what drew me to it. I decided I wanted to come here and play in the SEC. I thought I had the ability to do it, and that's what went into my decision, and I felt like the Lord was calling me here."

Levant pointed out that it was a grind to get to where he is, and he thanked Harsin and his staff for getting him where he is today. Harsin had nothing but praise for Levant when he addressed the media after practice.

"[Levant] has done an excellent job on and off the field, as well as academically," Harsin said. "He's a hard worker, and he's now on special teams, so he's getting a chance to play. He's started on a couple of those."

Levant will now look toward the upcoming season as a scholarship player. He now has a new breath of fresh air. He said he could've run 30 more reps after practice after hearing the news. Now, No. 46 anticipates the 2022 season opener versus Mercer on September 3 with some newfound confidence.

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Noah Griffith | Assistant Sports Editor

Noah is a senior in journalism from Salem, Alabama. He joined the Plainsman in August of 2021 after transferring in from Southern Union Community College.

Twitter: @NoahGG01

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