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The first Negro ever recruited to play in the conference, it is doubtful that he would have played football anywhere had it not been for his sister Charlena. "When I grew up in Beaumont," he explains, "I was always playing my sax or studying. But Charlena shoved me out of the house and locked the door so I would get some exercise. I tagged along with the big kids, and we played a lot of football." Two of those he tagged along with were cousins Miller and Mel Farr, now both pros, and he learned well.
Levias' statistics were so good as a high school senior that, as he puts it, "my coach had to cut them down because everyone thought he was lying about them to get me a scholarship."
At SMU, opponents tried to cut him down directly. They insulted him regularly, intimidated him and spat on him. But Levias has not tried to retaliate, and indeed often cracks jokes about himself. Good-naturedly, he even enjoyed wearing a Wallace hat and button that his teammates gave him. The whole college experience appears only to have made him better for it.
"And he'll make it big as a flanker in the pros," says Ermal Allen, backfield coach and scout for the Cowboys. "Forget his size. He's tough like Tommy McDonald, has the moves of Lance Al-worth, can catch a ball in a crowd and adjusts to all kinds of coverage."
Levias, who has run 9.6 and can also dunk a basketball from a standing position, has, indeed, become a craftsman. "I learned a lot from summer workouts with Miller, who's a defensive back," Levias says of his cousin. "For instance, he taught me that a receiver often tips off when he'll make his cut or break by starting to chop his steps just before he turns or by bringing his hands up to help shift his weight." Levias often practices his steps, his fakes and other moves as he walks across campus.
"I always consider myself the underdog," he says. "I believe there is always someone better than me, and I always think that every defensive back that I face is the best in the nation. Even in my dreams I'm always the underdog. But in my dreams I always come out the winner."
More often than not, these days, Levias and his teammates have been winners, too. They enjoy football as never before, and even the folks in Dallas have stopped their snickers to buy tickets for Excitement '68.