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A future football star?
‘Fearless’ Levi Becker, 9, staying motivated to keep the highest levels as a realistic goal
Levi Becker
Levi Becker’s bedroom is adorned with mementoes of his favorite athletes and sports teams. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Like many younger siblings, Levi Becker’s athletic career started out playing football in the yard with his older brother and sister and trying to keep up. When he was 4, his parents signed him up to play flag football with the Bulloch County Recreation and Parks and it was apparent from the beginning that he had a knack for the sport.

In one particular game, the 4-year-old Becker’s team was trailing with time left for one more play. His grandfather, Jim Becker, was coaching and asked the team in the huddle who wants the ball? Levi repeated over and over “give me the ball,” the older Becker said. “He was hungry. He wanted it,” Jim Becker said.

“He took the handoff and ran 60 yards and we won the game and that was an ‘aha’ moment where I thought ‘this kid might be something special,’” he said. 

“Even if I don’t make it, at least I had the ball in my hands for the last play,” Levi Becker, now 9, said of his desire to make the last play or take the last shot in a basketball game.

“He has a drive that a lot of kids don't have,” said his mother, Taylor Becker. “He is up in the morning, wanting to work out. Constantly begging his dad, ‘Let's go play basketball. Let's go play basketball’ until my daughter's like ‘oh my gosh, like when will enough be enough?’ but she's always at all his games. He's driven so whether or not we provide it for him, he's going to go get it, he's always been like that.” she said

Levi Becker
Levi Becker and dad Nikk run through an offseason football workout before baseball practice. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

After his three seasons playing flag football, he moved on to play at Bulloch Academy where he first got to put on pads and a helmet and transitioned to tackle football.

He said he was excited to move onto tackle football.

“I like the contact,” he said. 

While he primarily plays running back, he also has excelled on the defensive side of the ball as a defensive back.

“I like running back because you get the ball a lot,” he said, but there are aspects of defense he likes as well. “I like guarding people and getting picks (interceptions).” 

In addition to football, Becker plays baseball and basketball, as well, so there’s basically never a time when he’s not playing one sport or another.

He has an eclectic mix of favorite teams and athletes, too. He’s a Miami Dolphins football fan but his favorite player is Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry. His favorite college football team is Ohio State and his favorite baseball player is Pete Rose, who he had the chance to meet once. 


Going to IMG

This past Christmas break the Bulloch Academy fourth grader traveled to the prestigious IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., to participate in a series of showcase games with players from all over the country.

He earned that honor after a standout performance at the Offense-Defense football camp he attended in Atlanta earlier in 2023, where he caught the eye of several coaches there.

“They handed out MVP Awards to whoever was doing good and I got an MVP Award. That gets you invited out to IMG Academy the day after Christmas and that’s how I got invited,” Levi said.

Jordan Dandrige was one of the coaches at Offense-Defense who worked with Levi and he said early on he could see that Becker was a special talent.

Levi Becker
Levi Becker is shown at the Offense-Defense Camp held in Atlanta in 2023 for the top young players in the region.

“In some groups he was one of the younger ones and one of the smaller ones and in some of the matchups going against the bigger kids, it can be one sided,” Dandrige said, “With Levi, he always wanted to get better and if he made a mistake, he would be mad at himself and want to get back out there and go again and do better the next time.”

Not only that, but over the course of the week-long camp, Becker began to separate himself with his attitude.

“In his age group, and even some of the older guys, he was good at motivating his teammates. They all paid attention to him and you could see their attitudes shifting,” Dandrige said. “It makes my job as a coach easy when you’ve got someone who wants to listen and to learn. It’s rare to see that at such a young age.”

Dandrige said Becker’s versatility creates opportunities for him to stand out all over the field.

“He’s a hybrid player where if he wants to move around, he has a few different options (for positions to play),” he said. “He’s still growing, and he’s athletic enough to play wherever they need him. He’s like a Swiss army knife.” 

Taylor Becker said as they’ve gotten more involved in elite camps, she’s seen the lengths parents will go through to set their kid apart from the crowd. While some parents have held their children back in school to allow them to be a year older than the other players they were competing against, Becker said that’s not something they considered.

“It’s not that it wasn’t something that was talked about in the athletic community. ‘It’s not too late, just hold him back,’ but I tend to lean on the side of ‘if he’s got it, he’s got it.’ At this point he’s too old, he’s got friends in his class and it’s not all about (athletics) for him. But it was crazy to see that world,” she said.


MVP ticket

Offense-Defense has 20 camps located throughout the country from San Diego to Denver to Rochester, New York to Atlanta. At the conclusion of each camp, certain players are awarded an MVP Ticket and an invitation to IMG Academy. 

Taylor Becker said Levi’s eyes were wide like saucers when they first arrived at IMG for the camp. Not just from the entrance to the sports facility that lets visitors know they’re arriving some place special, but also from the size of some of the players there on the field with him.

While he’s normally a kid that goes 100 miles per hour all the time, his mom said he appeared a little anxious and nervous when they got there. Levi said it wasn’t until the second practice that he started to relax and feel more comfortable and then he was able to show off his abilities as they practiced and prepared for the games. 

“My Dad told him ‘You belong here. They invited you and you got this’ but the players were just towering,” Taylor Becker said. “We’ve yet to see a kid his size and we’re standing in line to get his uniform and he’s so quiet and I kept asking if he was OK but as soon as he saw (Coach) Jordan, he was OK.”

At IMG the boys would practice for four hours, get an hour break, and then practice for another four hours and then they would have skills training in the evenings.

“He had this look on his face that said ‘Mama, take me home,’ but I said I’m going to refill your water bottle and I told him ‘You got this’ and he would push through,” Taylor Becker said. 

While at IMG the players were separated into teams as they prepared to play two games at the conclusion of the camp. Becker’s team won both games, 19-0 and 12-0, with Becker playing both running back and defensive back in the games.

Levi Becker
Levi Becker is shown pushing away a would-be tackler at the Offense-Defense Camp held in Atlanta in 2023.

Becker said it was special to get to play on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball during the games as that typically doesn’t happen.

“It felt good because when you signed up, you signed up for offense or defense,” he said, but he was able to prove that he could play both.

In one of the games, Becker said they played in the “big stadium” that has been shown on ESPN but due to a scheduling conflict, the second game wasn’t played there. Despite that, Becker said it was “cool” to be able to play there and have his name called over the public address speaker.

“You can tell the kids who have parents who make them sign up and the ones that want to be out there,” said Dandrige, who was at IMG while Becker was there but was coaching a different team. “He takes a lot of pride being out there. He’s a really good kid who works hard and wants to get better.”


Future for Levi?

Becker’s mom and grandfather both said they want to push him to be the best he can be, but they want him to play because it’s something he enjoys and want to make sure there is a healthy balance in Levi’s life which is something Dandrige also said was important for his future development.

“The biggest thing is that he’s enjoying it and wants to come out and do it,” Dandrige said. “From what I’ve experienced, I’ve seen a lot of players who were really good at a young age and who were all-stars in ninth grade who have fallen out of love with the game and stopped playing.

“If he keeps practicing like he is now, there’s really no ceiling for him,” Dandrige said. “He does well in school and as long as he keeps everything consistent, I think the door is open as far as he wants to take it. He has a lot of fearlessness that a lot of kids his age don’t have and that’s something he has that separates him.”

In addition to his football exploits, Becker also plays basketball and is the shortstop on his baseball team. Between sports and his school and homework, he said he doesn’t have much time for other activities, but he does enjoy playing video games, including Fortnite, his favorite, when he has down time. 

Taylor Becker said they’ll continue to provide opportunities for Levi in football if that’s what he wants to do. They’ve already talked about the possibility of going to another football camp or two this summer, but, ultimately, it’ll be Levi who decides if he wants to continue playing. 

“He’s already stood out a lot in both the Atlanta camp and the camp in Florida,” Dandrige said. “He can develop into however good a player he wants to be.”

Levi Becker
Levi Becker pushes himself through the last reps of an offseason workout. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

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