NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans‘ newest quarterback, Will Levis, was one of 17 prospects invited to Kansas City, Missouri, for the 2023 NFL draft.
But after not being selected in the first round, Levis was one of four prospects who didn’t get to hear his name called on opening night — the others being Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (who went one pick before Levis at No. 32), Alabama safety Brian Branch and Georgia Tech defensive tackle Keion White.
Some attended the draft for Day 2, but the former Kentucky quarterback didn’t. Levis needed to return home Friday for a family gathering back in Connecticut to celebrate what they thought would be a first-round draft selection.
So that next morning, Levis’ flight was supposed to leave Kansas City at 10 a.m. ET to head back east, but it was delayed about three hours.
Traffic extended the already two-hour drive back home from the airport in Newark, New Jersey, causing an even later arrival to the celebration.
Although Levis wasn’t selected Thursday, his late arrival to his draft party was right on time.
“He had just walked in his home from traveling back from Kansas City,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of the team’s call to Levis to tell him they were drafting him.
The Titans sent in the card and the Levis selection was announced by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell around 7:30 p.m.
“I literally walked through the door as my name got called,” Levis said. “I got the call and it just all happened bang, bang, bang!”
Titans general manager Ran Carthon struck a deal with the Arizona Cardinals to move up eight spots to select Levis, a player that ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the draft, with the second pick in the second round.
Carthon called Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort, who served the previous three seasons in Tennessee as the Titans’ director of player personnel, to make a deal. The Titans acquired the No. 33 overall pick, along with the No. 81 overall pick, in exchange for the 41st and 72nd picks and a 2024 third-round selection.
According to ESPN Analytics, there was a 92% chance that Levis was going to be picked in the top 10 of the draft.
Levis said the emotions overwhelmed him and “the waterworks” started flowing when he got the call from the Titans.
The relief was evident to Carthon and Vrabel when they delivered the news to Levis.
“As soon as we called, you could hear it,” Vrabel said.
“You’ve earned it, everything happens for a reason”
The call that Will Levis was waiting for 📞 pic.twitter.com/D0UJ4WjPRy
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) April 29, 2023
“[His] bags [were] in the foyer still,” Carthon added.
The ecstasy from being drafted won’t have much time to sink in, as Levis has to quickly shift his focus to Titans rookie camp, where he will start off at No. 3 on the depth chart.
The Titans already have veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the roster, as well as 2022 third-round pick Malik Willis. Vrabel said Tannehill will be the starter and Willis will open up as the primary backup.
In Levis’ mind, it doesn’t matter where he got picked or where he’s at on the chart. He’s ready to get to work at the Titans facility.
“It’s not going to change my work ethic, regardless if I went first overall or 33rd,” Levis said. “I can’t let the circumstances dictate my work ethic. I ended up where I was meant to be, and I’m just looking forward to competing and getting started.”