The Words of the Legay Family

Hard Work Beats Talent -- Interview with Levi Legay

Chelsea Legay
August 2011

Question: Hello! My name is Chelsea Legay, intern for Lovin' Life Ministries, interviewing my older brother Levi Legay about his football career in college. Would you like to tell us a bit about who you are and how your journey has been thus far?

Hi, my name is Levi and I'm Chelsea's brother.

Question: Haha. Well, how old are you, what are you majoring in and why did you start football in the first place?

I'm 22, and I'm attending and playing football for the University of Hawaii at Manoa on a full-ride scholarship. I'm double majoring in Business Management and Marketing. I first started playing football during my freshman year in high school. I kind of joined it on a whim, just trying to get in shape. I actually was inspired by my good friend Jake McCarthy who was very fit, and having a good time playing sports. I wanted to start doing the same thing. So I figured "Why not just join football?" At the time I didn't really have any other reason to join. So I just joined and started. My freshman year I didn't get more than five minutes of playing time the entire year. I just rode the bench.

I actually injured my hamstring in the beginning of that year. The injury hindered me a bit physically, but by the end of my sophomore year the Varsity coach pulled me up from Junior Varsity to Varsity to start practicing with the team.

I didn't necessarily play any games, but I went along for the ride and I got to be on the team when my high school, Kealakehe High School, won its first BIIF [Big Island Interscholastic Federation] football championship (in other words, we won the championship for the island). Then in my junior and senior years, my team won BIIF, and I was recognized as the best offensive lineman in my conference two years in a row.

Question: What were some of your biggest challenges when you first began playing football?

Learning how to play the game was the first! That was a challenge because I was never really that interested in football to begin with. I always played baseball, basketball, or flag football, but those are completely different sports than contact football. So when I started playing, I was on the field with kids who had played tackle football before.

Question: I remember my first reaction to you playing football when you first began. I mean, you were one of the slower, kinda tubby kids who could barely run a mile. I thought, "Really, Levi? Why don't you go play baseball or something?" But you have definitely proved me wrong.

Yeah, I mean I was definitely one of the most out-of-shape guys on the field when I started. When I first joined the team, the people around me didn't really expect much out of me, which I think was more of a positive thing. Since people on the team didn't expect me to do well, I naturally just wanted to prove them wrong.

There were a lot of instances in which people said I couldn't do something or doubted me. I just took those moments as challenges, which I think were some of the driving forces that spurred me early on to start training really hard in the off season. The competitive juices just started flowing.

Question: Yes, I definitely remember the first two years when you began playing. You kind of went from zero in your freshman year, to a hero in your senior year when you were one of three kids on the island to get a full-ride scholarship to play football. What is the intrinsic point of football that makes you want to keep playing it?

I just play because it is the most fun thing out there. There's nothing like playing football on a Friday or Saturday night under stadium lights. Playing with your teammates and experiencing the bond between each other as we play is great. You can't really describe it. When you're on the field doing something together with these other guys on your team, you're bonding without using words.

Football is very different from non-contact sports. It brings out this whole mentality of "we're going into battle together." More so than basketball or baseball, football feels like a battle or war. The challenge of pushing my own limits to see how much I can improve is very appealing to me.

Question: Were there any experiences that were so challenging that you just didn't want to play football anymore?

Yes, actually. Last fall before the season started, I had already been in college for three years. Up until that point I had just been working and working and working and I had never seen any playing time. I was getting close to a point where I could get playing time, but went from game to game without any. I honestly just got really tired of not getting any reward for my years of investment.

Question: What is it that kept you going?

Well, I'd say that despite the frustration, love for the game is what kept me going. There's no adrenaline rush like going into battle on the field with your teammates in front of a huge audience.

Question: What was your best experience so far?

My best experience was that very first time I actually got to play college football at a football game. I finally got to set foot on the field and those were the most exhilarating moments I've ever experienced!

It's exhilarating when you're playing in front of an audience of thousands of people and you get to finally execute everything perfectly that you've ever practiced in a live setting. Just the nature of the sport, it being full physical contact, and the atmosphere of playing alongside your teammates is a rush. After any game you play, you're on this high from all the adrenaline that it may last for a few days.

Question: What were some of the most important points you learned playing football?

Well, courage is one of the most important virtues to have. You need to have courage to face failure. You have to risk failure in order to gain success.

Question: What do you think is the key to success with football or athletics in general?

I think what I have to say goes beyond just football and sports. The key to success in general is actually pretty simple: hard work and consistency. I've heard the old saying, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard," manifested many, many times. It doesn't matter how talented you are. It will be the guy who works the hardest and has the most passion that is going to succeed.

If you look at any of the great athletes in basketball, baseball or football, they may not have started as the most talented athletes, but they worked harder than anybody. Michael Jordan, for example. He didn't even make the cut for his basketball team in his sophomore year in high school because he wasn't good enough. He even tried out for the varsity basketball team and got cut. After that he practiced like a madman and made it. He never let his work ethic down for one moment. After that was history. He won six NBA championships and is one of the best players to ever step foot on a basketball court.

The solution to a challenge is never external; it's always an internal solution. People sometimes looking for external answers rather than look inside themselves to see what they can change. However, we all have the power to do anything we want. Each person has complete command over his or her own body, and can choose to do, or not do, anything.

For someone like me -- never really the most talented guy around -- I had to rely on my desire and my mental power to get you through to the next level. The old saying, "If there's a will there's a way," is true, because if you set a goal for yourself you have to just do your best to make it happen.

Question: What do you think have been some major changes you had to make inside yourself to keep consistent in playing football?

I've gone through phases where my feeling is, "There are all these negative factors conspiring against me to make things harder for me," or, "I'm not doing well because this is happening to me, or someone did this to me!" I had to change my thinking to look inside myself to find strength. I had to look inside myself to find answers to the problems I was facing. Then I had control over the situation.

I was always a kind of a perfectionist, but perfectionism can sometimes be the enemy of progress. The reality is that you are never going to have the perfect workout, the best equipment, or the best circumstances. You just have to learn how to do things the best that you can, regardless of external circumstances.

Question: Out of all collegiate and professional football teams, the UH team travels the most. How do you find balance between athletics, schoolwork, and family?

Well, I just try to take everything one step at a time. I just focus on the task I have at hand and try to get it done before I move on to the next thing. There have definitely been times where I haven't been able to get everything done, but that's okay. I can only do one thing at a time, so I just have to crack down and focus before I move on to the next task.

Question: What are your goals for the future? Do you plan on going professional?

First of all, my plans are to make it onto the college team, then take my best shot at making the NFL or professional football. I definitely want to take a crack at making it there. I just want to get the experience of making it to that level of excellence and success.

Question: Do you have any advice for people who are going to play football or start a sport in college?

Again, what I want to say is for more than just sports. If you find something you have a passion for, don't give up on it, no matter what anybody says. Nothing should stop you from going all out to achieve your goals. You just have to be willing to make sacrifices like time, secondary hobbies, and other potential interests you may want to pursue. Ask yourself the question, "Do I love doing this?" If the answer is clear, then the rest will fall into place.

Question: How do you give back to your community through living out your passion as a football player?

In my high school and in my hometown in Kona, there aren't a lot of resources for people to move forward with the career they wish to pursue. By going to college and becoming a better football player, I'm showing people that it can be done. You can start from nothing and work your way up. You can make something from what little resources you have and what little support you have.

A lot of people who live here just don't have a concept of leaving the island, or doing anything after high school other than having a normal job. When you do something different, you're kind of giving people ideas and showing them how those ideas can be realized.

The best way to teach people is not to force your worldviews on them. The best way to teach people is to silently set the best example by doing the best you can in what you're passionate about.

Question: Awesome, Levi. Thanks for your time! Enjoy your break at home.

Will do. 

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