Credits pile up for OSU's top blocker
December 11, 2008
Kerry Eggers, The Portland Tribune
CORVALLIS – Offensive linemen live under a cloak of anonymity. Like referees, they usually only get noticed when they make a mistake.
It’s nice, then, that Andy Levitre is getting some recognition as he ends his career at Oregon State in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31 at El Paso, Texas.
Over the last week, the senior offensive tackle has been recognized as a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association and as a first-team all-Pac-10 selection. He is probably the most-decorated Beaver O-lineman since John Didion, a consensus All-America choice in the late ’60s.
“Andy is the most complete player I’ve ever coached,” says OSU’s well-respected O-line coach, Mike Cavenaugh. “I have eight players currently on NFL rosters, and he is as good or better than any of them.”
Coach Mike Riley has similar sentiments about Levitre, a 3.28 student who was named to the first all-Pac-10 academic team this fall and will graduate winter term with a double major in finance and sociology.
“Andy is one of the best players we’ve ever had here, at any position,” Riley says.
The 6-3, 315-pound Levitre looks back at his career at Oregon State with pride and appreciation.
“It’s gone extremely well, exceeded anything I thought would happen,” he says. “I’ll always cherish my time at Oregon State.”
Levitre has been a starter since the final game of his freshman season, when he stepped in for the injured Josh Linehan. Playing both guard and tackle, Levitre takes a streak of 34 consecutive starts into the Sun Bowl, with 38 starts overall.
As a junior in high school in Ben Lomard, Calif., Levitre weighed 340 pounds. An assistant coach helped him improve his diet, and Levitre’s continued work at conditioning and in the weight room has turned him into a trimmer, quicker player.
Levitre, who had scholarship offers from Louisiana State, Arizona and Fresno State, considers the years he played for Riley well-spent.
“With coach Riley, you learn it’s not all about talent; it’s about playing as a team together,” he says. “We don’t have all the five-star athletes, but if you put 11 guys on the field who love to play together and work as a unit, they can do just as good a job.”
The gruff, tough Cavenaugh, who arrived before Levitre’s redshirt freshman season, has been a major influence, too.
“I couldn’t ask for anybody better, as a person and a coach,” Levitre says. “He’s one of a kind. You don’t realize it at first; you think he’s just a big jerk. But he has helped me get to where I want to be as a player and person.
“Cav gave me a sense of direction, how to get where you want to go to be successful. It’s a matter of buying into what he was teaching us. I feel like I was one of the first to pick up on that. He has had a great impact on my life. I owe him a lot for that.”
Cavenaugh has become Levitre’s biggest fan.
“Andy has it all,” Cavenaugh says. “He’s smart, with a great personality. People gravitate to him. He raises up people around him.
“From a football standpoint, he has everything you look for. He is athletic and tough, has great balance and power, and great feet for a big old rascal like he is. You talk about a guy who is smart, picks things up, makes great split-second decisions – that’s Andy. The way he handles all his business in the weight room, conditioning, preparation – he has just been awesome to work with.”
Levitre is growing nostalgic as he nears the final game of his Oregon State career. A Sun Bowl victory over Pittsburgh would be the 28th in the past three years – the finest three-year stretch in school history.
“There have been so many great memories,” he says. “All the friends I’ve made through my five years here. All the great games I’ve played in. We’ve won some of them; we’ve lost a few. Having three of the best seasons Oregon State has had in its history is something these teams will be remembered for down the road. I’m glad I could be a part of that.
“These next few weeks before the bowl game – I’m going to try to soak up every second and enjoy it. I’m definitely going to miss being around all these guys. For the seniors in particular, we want to make a statement. This is the last go for us. Everybody is going to want to play his best game.”
When it’s over, Levitre will look to an NFL career. He will probably be the first Oregon State player drafted. His chance to make it in the pros “is outstanding,” says Riley, who spent three years as head coach of the San Diego Chargers.
“Hell, yeah, he’s going to make it,” Cavenaugh says. “He’ll be great. I’m excited to see where Andy Levitre goes.”