By Tom Robinson, NEPASportsNation.com
Top high school athletes aspire for the chance to leave home and compete with the best in the nation after graduation.
Wallenpaupack junior Roman Levant is starting that process nearly a year and a half early, before getting to the college level.
Levant took the final steps Monday on signing with the IMG Academy in Florida to play with its “national” high school football team while continuing his development as a kicking prospect. He will report to the school during the first week of January with plans to compete there in the fall and have himself ready to be on the college campus for the spring semester of 2023.
NEPAFootball.com named Levant all-District 2 kicker Monday and he is also building his skills as a punter where he was a Lackawanna Football Conference Division 1 all-star choice by the website, a partner of NEPASportsNation.com.
“Punting is a little harder to pick up coming from a soccer background, but I train to do both,” Levant said. “It’s good to know; good to have.
“In the future, I definitely want to be able to play in college and to have both jobs.”
Levant receives specialized training in both kicking and punting.
Charlie Titus, who trains as “NJ Punting Coach” and is affiliated with Special Teams Solutions, comes from New Jersey to meet Levant at Delaware Valley High School for punting training.
“He’s made tremendous strides in the last 16-18 months on his punting,” Titus said. “I was with him (Sunday); he had a really good day.
“I think being down in Florida, being with other great guys, being in that weather all year round, I really think you’ll see him continue to elevate.”
Levant averaged 35.1 yards per punt with Wallenpaupack while placing 10 of his 34 kicks inside the 20.
“It’s going to be cool for him to get down there,” Titus said. “I think he’s done everything he can do in a Pennsylvania public high school and I think he just wants to go down there and see what he can do against the best of the best and he’s going to get that opportunity.”
Levant’s junior season at Wallenpaupack continued his rise among the nation’s top kicking prospects in his class.
The average Levant kickoff landed inside the 3 as he had 28 touchbacks in 47 tries. Levant went 30-for-31 on extra points with one blocked and was 7-for-10 on field goal attempts, making four from between 42 and 45 yards.
Like many kickers, Levant grew up playing soccer where the powerful leg he showed led to testing it in another sport.
“My Dad took me out to the field one day, said ‘I see your leg, I think you should try this out’,” Levant said. “It was obvious I was pretty good at it. It took a little convincing from him, but I ended up trying to kick for the football team and then I got the spot, went from there.”
Levant split time between soccer and football as a freshman, running between games and practices for both sports. He wound up enjoying the football experience more and made the full-time switch to that sport after his freshman year.
An introduction to Wilkes-Barre’s Gerry McGroarty, the kicking coach at Susquehanna University, who trains kickers and kicking coaches through Cannon Kicking, was the next step.
“The first day I had ever seen him, the talent was there,” said McGroarty, the former Bishop Hoban standout who was the kicker on the University at Buffalo’s only Mid-American Conference championship team in 2008. “It’s been a pleasure working with him since. He has developed tremendously since we started.
“I think he has a limitless potential in regard to the kicking and punting world. I think the process is going to continue to allow him to fine-tune himself and get better in each facet of the kicking game.”
McGroarty said it is important for the football world to realize the athleticism displayed by the best kicking specialists.
“They have superb balance and coordination and mental toughness and ability to perform under pressure,” McGroarty said.
The coach sees those traits in Levant.
“I couldn’t be any prouder,” McGroarty said. “He’s a special kid.
“I know he’s going to do well. Any challenge that is presented in front of him, he’s always approached with confidence, process and perseverance.”
Levant knew he was being offered a special opportunity. He said the most difficult part was leaving in the middle of the senior year of his brother Mabret, Wallenpaupack’s quarterback.
“It turned out I was going to actually leave before him,” Roman Levant said. “That was hard to process.
“This kind of came out of nowhere, so definitely had to deal with that.”
Levant, however, is anxious to take the next step in developing as a kicker.
“At IMG, I’m really just looking forward to having the experience with some of the top athletes in the nation,” he said. “They have a great coaching staff there as well and I especially look forward to that.”