Ellison High School second-year defensive coordinator Derek Levisay takes his responsibilities seriously.
“Our goal every year is to win state,” he said. “We obviously have a lot of work to do here at Ellison, that’s why we were brought in here. Our goal is to win them all — that’s why we play.
“I know some people would say one or two wins this year would be a successful season. But that’s not what we want. We don’t want moral victories. We want to win them all.
“And that’s why we get up so early every single day of the season.”
He’s not kidding.
“I’m up every day at 3 a.m.,” Levisay said. “As a coaching staff, we report to work every day at 5:30 a.m. If you wake up early, you’re getting a lot done early. I don’t mind it at all. If you have a goal, if you have a passion, this is how you work.”
Trent Gregory was hired as head coach at Ellison in 2013.
Before Gregory and Levisay arrived, Ellison was 0-10 in both 2011 and 2012.
“I had worked with Coach Gregory on the same staff at Austin Vandegrift for three seasons,” Levisay said. “We were both assistant coaches there. Nobody outworked Coach Gregory.
“Well, one day, Coach Gregory stopped by my classroom where I was teaching social studies and said, ‘I want you to be my defensive coordinator at Ellison.’ It was that simple.
It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
In 2013, the Eagles weren’t able to break into the win column.
“The positives about last season was that we felt like we were in every game,” Levisay said. “Yes, there were some contests, by some point, we weren’t in the games. But we did feel we started each contest well. We did feel there were a lot of bright spots. We went through a lot of growing pains. We tried to do a lot of teaching in our first season here.
“But this spring, our kids showed us that they’re miles ahead of where we were last spring.”
Levisay runs a 4-2-5 defense.
“We’re seeing so many spread teams,” he said.
“So the 4-2-5, I feel, is an effective defense. You want to be strong up front with your front four but that 4-2-5 gives you that extra guy in the secondary. It’s a sound defense. Our kids have bought in and I noticed they retained so much more this past spring than in our first year.”
Ellison’s first practice is Aug. 11.
“I’ll talk a lot to my guys about staying hungry,” Levisay said. “And I’ll start that on Day 1.”
Levisay, 34, said he’s proud to work for Gregory.
“Coach Gregory sets the standards and we as a staff follow,” Levisay said. “I feel fortunate to work for such a great coach. Coach Gregory has 30 years of coaching experience and he’s won a state title as a head coach (with Bartlett) but he will never tell you about that state title. Why? Because he refuses to brag. And because he is an Ellison Eagle now and, to him, it’s all about us coaching these kids right here right now — doing everything we can for them. And this is a great bunch of kids. We’re having so much fun coaching them.”
And so Levisay will continue to set that alarm clock for 3 a.m.
“I’m actually glad to do that,” he said. “You don’t want others to be getting a jump on you. Plus, at the end of the season, you don’t want to have to ask yourself, ‘Couldn’t we have worked harder? Couldn’t we have done more?’ I don’t want that on me. No coach wants that.
“I don’t want any regrets.”