The 31-year-old Dan Levy’s passport has been filling up over the past decade. His next role has him as an offensive coordinator at an American college.
Levy is a young and enthusiastic coach with a wealth of international experience. He’s coached in the U.S., Europe, and Brazil, and is familiar with the unique dynamics of worldwide American football. Most recently he led the Ancona Dolphins of the Italian Football League (IFL) to a 8-3 record and a play-off berth, a huge improvement for the club in Italy’s top American football league.
American Football International had a chance to catch up with the American coach as he prepares to fly back to the US and embark on a new part of his American football journey.
AFI: Following your experience in Ancona, it seems like the team organization embraced you and really took a step forward. What are your thoughts on 2015 Ancona Dolphins IFL season?
Dan Levy: I definitely would say we took a step forward this season. Coming from Brazil I arrived a little later than ideal so we were on a compressed time frame. But we were able to install pretty well and get off to a good start. That said, the entire season was a work in progress, and there were a lot of ups and downs. One thing I’ve learned is that unless you are stepping into a team that is championship ready from top to bottom, the odds are always a little stacked against you. When you have a team that is in rebuilding mode, whether it is from a talent standpoint, a culture standpoint… or in the case of the Dolphins, both, one season is rarely enough time. A championship is always the goal, but you also have to be mindful of how realistic it is considering the work that will be required not just by one, two or three people, but by an entire team and organization… and that that level of commitment has to be maintained from the very first to the very last day.
AFI: What do you see for the future of the Ancona Dolphins?
DL: The Dolphins are a team that is on the cusp of really competing in the IFL and potentially in Europe. They have a group of young, core players with a lot of promise. They have a group of 4 or 5 receivers who are phenomenal, a very exciting runningback, and their defensive backfield is very athletic and physical. They also have a linebacker who is up for IFL player of the year. And a lot of these guys are players who only emerged this season. So there is a lot to build on.
AFI: How can the Dolphins make the next leap and defeat the northern Italy teams, and possibly, the other great clubs in Europe?
DL: For them to take the next step forward, and I alluded to this before… it has to be a top-to-bottom effort. Being a top-notch football team isn’t about a handful or “core” group carrying the load, it’s about the entire team buying in, and not just at practice and games but in the weight room, the film room, etc. There needs to be a mindset overhaul in certain areas. The Dolphins have a strange dynamic in that they have a group of players under 25, and a group of players in their late 30s and even 40s… and not much in between. They need to recruit in this 25 to 35 area while also developing their youth program. They seem to be pretty active on the latter but need more work in the former. We had a couple of rookies this season… 3 or 4 actually… that were guys off the street and hadn’t come up through the youth program, and they were major contributors. The Dolphins need to realize that you can hold tryouts, recruit players like this, while also developing your youth program. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
In short, they need more depth from top to bottom, and they need to continue to change the culture of the team and become younger both on the roster and in their mindset.
AFI: What personally did you take away from 2015 in Italy? Will you be back?
DL: I really enjoyed coaching in Italy. The Dolphins treated me well and I have nothing but good things to say about the players and the management. Italy is in a strange place right now in that they are an established league but maybe a little stagnant. There are other leagues in Europe outpacing them at this point. I definitely found a few things frustrating this season regarding the federation, officiating, I expected business to be conducted a bit differently but it is what it is. As to whether or not I’ll be back, I really cannot say one way or the other.
AFI: What excites you about returning to the US and coaching? What are your goals for the rest of 2015?
DL: I’m excited to be transitioning to college football. It’s something I’ve maybe put off a little longer than I should, and honestly I was fortunate to find a really good situation at Alfred State. Coach Dodson and I really hit it off in our conversations and I am excited about the role they have carved out for me there. More than anything I’m just excited to be able to go in, contribute and learn. It will be nice to be back in the U.S., closer to my family, back with my dog, little things like that. I just hope I can have a positive impact at ASC and add a unique perspective and background to the coaching staff
AFI: And finally, do you see yourself returning to coach abroad in the near future?
DL: I honestly don’t know. I’ve enjoyed this right and would definitely consider the right situation. I suppose a lot will be decided these next few months. No matter what, I want to be active in growing the sport of American football, and even if I am not coaching abroad for a team full-time, I’d like to use the offseason to run some camps in Europe and Brazil because there is real hunger for football out there. Hopefully we can get some talented kids a chance to come over and play college football in the states, as well as shipping some great college players back the other way. I just hope I can continue to be active in growing and teaching this sport to the people who love it.