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MARK LEVOIR: Keeping guard

Mike Gilloon | Friday, November 18, 2005

Taking care of others tends to come naturally to Mark LeVoir.

He is the most experienced player on an offensive line that has given Irish quarterback Brady Quinn time to throw for 27 touchdowns and 2,931 passing yards this season. He has helped clear defenders out of the way for Notre Dame running backs Darius Walker and Travis Thomas to run for 1028 total yards. He even gives Irish tight end and fellow Minnesotan John Carlson rides to the airport.

But growing up, the senior Notre Dame offensive tackle kept watch over someone closer to him than any teammate – his brother Andy, who has Down syndrome.

“Andy’s older than me, but I felt like I was the older brother,” LeVoir said. “We’d take him out, do stuff and watch him. I’d just really look out for him when we were out playing with other kids because they didn’t really understand he has Down syndrome. They know he’s different, just because of physical features and stuff. You have to watch out for him and stick up for him.”

LeVoir has learned well from his brother on how to stick up for someone.

The Irish right tackle has started every game since the 2003 season opener against Washington State and is currently teaming with left tackle Ryan Harris, guards Dan Stevenson and Dan Santucci and centers John Sullivan and Bob Morton to vault Notre Dame’s offense to one of its most productive seasons in recent memory.

The Irish are averaging just under 39 points through nine contests in 2005.

“[LeVoir] is just commanding the offensive line,” Irish running back Darius Walker said. “He’s just an overall leader, and he understands the game so well. It’s just great to have him out there.”

Despite this praise, LeVoir feels there’s a lot of room to improve. There are still two regular season games left on the slate and, he hopes, a major bowl game in the future.

“We just have to keep improving, keep sharpening it up and hopefully be the top offensive line at the end of the season,” LeVoir said. “I think I’ve improved a lot from last year. A lot of that credit can start with … Coach [Ruben] Mendoza’s strength and conditioning on down the line, especially with [offensive line] Coach [John] Latina, who’s come in here and taught me a lot of things and Coach Weis, as well. Just the experience of having played a couple of years … each year you just keep getting better and better, or hope to at least.”

High school standout

With 33 career starts and the team’s current No. 6 national ranking, LeVoir’s Notre Dame career has to be considered a success. But he also had plenty of experience with winning during his time at Eden Prairie High School outside of Minneapolis.

LeVoir led his team to the 2000 Minnesota class 5A state title with a win over Cretin-Durham Hall, a team that featured current Irish players Rashon Powers-Neal, Ryan Harris and Marcus Freeman.

In the 13-0 season that led up to that championship win, LeVoir caught four touchdowns and also recorded 156 pancake blocks playing not tackle, but tight end.

This play attracted the attention of former Irish coach Bob Davie, whose staff recruited LeVoir and then moved him to tackle in fall practice his freshman year.

LeVoir didn’t see the field in 2001 but played tackle for eight games in 2002 under former Irish coach Tyrone Willingham. Athletic enough to play fullback, wide receiver, fullback and punter in addition to his regular duties as a tight end in high school, LeVoir moved to guard in 2003, starting every game that season. He then made one final switch back to tackle for the past two seasons.

Despite all of this movement, LeVoir seems to have found a home at right tackle, opposite fellow Minnesotan and left tackle Ryan Harris. It is for this stability and other reasons that he is happy he made the decision to come to Notre Dame.

“It’s a place I’ve always wanted to go,” Levoir said. “It’s the total package. Every weekend you’re playing against the top talent in the country and I wanted to measure myself against that.”

And that state championship game? LeVoir says it really hasn’t been an issue since he became a teammate, not an opponent, of Powers-Neal, Harris and Freeman.

“I joke with them every now and then,” LeVoir said. “It was high school, it’s not like it’s a big deal.”

Versatile in the classroom

All of LeVoir’s versatility on the football field is reflected in his interests in the classroom. Beginning college as a business major, LeVoir befriended anthropology professor James McKenna during his freshman year. The tackle wasn’t too thrilled with the business track he was on and McKenna encouraged him to take a few anthropology courses.

“It was interesting, it was more enjoyable to me,” LeVoir said of the subject that would become his major. “You could pick and choose classes. It wasn’t as structured. This is a great liberal arts school so I thought, ‘Well I might as well do something I enjoy instead of regretting it every day.'”

Later adding a second major in computer applications, LeVoir isn’t sure what he wants to do after he leaves Notre Dame and possibly, a career in the NFL.

“I don’t know,” LeVoir said. “My dad has a degree in chemistry and he’s never done one thing with chemistry in his whole life. He’s in sales now. I decided I might as well do something I enjoy.”

Predicted by most experts to be a selection in next April’s NFL draft, LeVoir again has a lot of hefty expectations placed on him – just like he did as a blue-chip prospect coming out of high school. But it doesn’t appear LeVoir is too impressed with himself to be willing to take it easy.

“All [the honors from high school meant] that I had potential,” LeVoir said. “Potential doesn’t really mean anything, you’ve got to make your potential.”

As his teammates and his brother Andy can attest, LeVoir has more than lived up to expectations.