Ravens safety Anthony Levine has heard the naysayers throughout his career.
And each step of the way, he has proved them wrong.
"I thrive on that. I thrive on guys, when they say, ‘Anthony Levine is the odd man out.’ I see it all the time," he said. "I hear it all the time. Actually, my little brother called me yesterday and was telling me he read some articles. I’m like, ‘I’m not worried about it.’ I thrive on that, though. That makes me who I am. I’ve been counted out my whole life. People would tell me that I wasn’t going to make it to where I am now. I was on the practice squad, and they told me that I was going to be a practice squad player.
"And now, I play special teams, I’m just a special teams player. Now, I’m playing defense. People set this standard on me, and I’m just trying to break those barriers every time. Now, I’m getting older, and it’s like, ‘Does Levine still have it.’ You all saw today. I still got it.”
Levine has been a key player on special teams for the the last seven seasons (2012-18). Over that stretch, the Ravens have ranked in the NFL's Top 6 in the annual report by senior NFL writer Rick Gosselin, widely regarded around the league as a special teams measuring stick.
In addition, Levine has also been a key contributor to the defense. Last year, he had 21 tackles (18 solo), 1 sack (-2 yards) and 1 interception from scrimmage for the league’s No. 1 overall (292.9 ypg) and No. 2 scoring (17.9 ppg) defense.
He is now one of the longest-tenured secondary players.
“Man, it’s a blessing, because I never thought that I would be one of the last-standing guys," he said. "Playing the way I’ve been playing and seeing guys come through, guys come, guys go, new guys, old guys … You have guys like Lardarius Webb retiring [Saturday], and I’m like, ‘Bro, we were just here together!’ Honestly, it’s been a blessing. DeShon Elliott, he called me ‘Unc,’ and I was like, ‘Bro, stop calling me 'Unc.' But he’s like, ‘Man, you’re old.’ But, it’s just a blessing to still be able to compete at a high level with those guys and see guys come in. I’ll tell them stories about when I was here with Ed [Reed], and it’s just a blessing to be able to still be around and witness that.”
Levine often offers advise to some of the younger players. He tells them that they can carve a long path in the NFL by flashing on special teams. He gained this knowledge through first-hand experience,
"I tell them that all the time, because that’s how I came up. I’m trying to show them," he said. "I read an article, it was probably a couple years ago, I forgot who it was. It was a fullback, and he was basically training and helping the guy take his position. I forgot who it was, but that’s basically what I do. I basically help those guys.
"I tell them how to basically beat me out, because that’s what we do. I’ve been here, and I’m trying to help other guys go, and push other guys. So, when the guys come in, I tell them, ‘The way you’re going to make it is special teams.’ And when you first come in the league, you’re not trying to hear that. When I first came in the league, I wasn’t trying to hear that. ‘Special teams? I wasn’t playing that in college. What are you talking about?’ But, I got around guys who were special teams guys, and they showed me the way. And then, I got with Jerry [Rosburg], and he showed me the way. Once guys understand, ‘Man, you have to get on special teams,’ everybody has their role to play. We tell DeShon [Elliott] all the time, ‘Your time is coming,’ and Chuck Clark, ‘Your time is coming.
"But right now, this is your role.’ I tell them, ‘Look, this was my role at the beginning of my career, and look how my career is now. I’m not the big Earl Thomas or Tony Jefferson, but at the end of the day, my teammates know who I am, the City of Baltimore knows who I am, and that’s all that matters.”