The expectations were high for Collinsville (Okla.) High linebacker Levi Draper in the 2015 season. Coming off an offseason that saw the four-star prospect add offers from Clemson, Florida State and Alabama, among others, there was a big target on his back.
Draper, now ranked No. 75 in the Scout 300, committed to Oklahoma State back in July, but it was clear Oklahoma wasn’t going to throw in the towel.
The persistence paid off with Draper flipping to the Sooners officially in December. Since then, the offers have continued to pour in with Georgia and Notre Dame the latest. But the other clear part of this equation is Draper is not going anywhere, visiting OU multiple times in the last six weeks and expected to return to Norman this weekend.
“We knew he was a good looking kid when he came back to Collinsville in eighth grade,” high school coach Kevin Jones said. “He has everything you’re looking for – the God-given frame, long arms to go with how tall he is.
“He’s in a special class (2017), but he made us that much better. He has a real quiet nature about him. He’s really humble and respectful, not one of those kids that looks for the limelight.”
Draper isn’t looking for it, but the limelight is going to find him. That’s what happens when you’re the first OKPreps prospect to break the Scout 100 in a few years and committed to the Sooners.
That’s what happens when you have more than 150 tackles with four sacks and three interceptions as a junior in leading Collinsville to an appearance in the state championship game.
The limelight is going to find you, but Jones said he’s not worried one bit with how Draper has responded to the attention.
“It’s his work ethic,” said Jones about what sets Draper apart. “He works like crazy. He runs track for us, too, so he’s doing his conditioning during the day and doing all of his lifting at night. He’s already living and training like a college athlete.”
At this point last year was when it all started to come together for Draper. The first offer in the bag was Louisville, and it caught Jones by complete surprise.
He knew Draper was going to start to earn attention, but he had no idea it was going to happen as fast as it did and with as many top-tier schools as it has.
“I think we’ve probably had more coaches go through here in the last year than in the last 20 years combined,” Jones said.
There’s always a trickledown effect to that. Schools obviously are flocking to see Draper, but it gives teammates the chance to be noticed as well. Jones said that has certainly been the case with Collinsville players for the 2016 class and now going forward.
“Levi takes a lot of pride in it, and it’s something he’s happy to see,” Jones said. “We consider ourselves a family and selflessness is a big part of that. I like to say we don’t just have a bunch of talented kids but good kids from good families.”
Draper has sort of become a ringleader for OU’s 2017 class, which is something he said he would do back when he pledged three months ago.
He said his recruitment was over, and the goal was to bring the best of the best with him to Norman next signing day. And when the best player in the class talks, others listen.
“It’s his speed,” said Jones about Draper’s best asset as a player. “He has great length, but he’s got this gear where he can just make plays. It’s that speed. He has those instincts where it’s like, you know, he shouldn’t have been able to make that play.
“He can strike. Like a rattlesnake.”
Jones said it has been OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops who continually has been making the trips from Norman to Collinsville, and Jones has been impressed with the person Stoops is to go along with the proven track record as a coach.
For Jones and for Draper, the goal is simple. After losing the Class 5A state title game 31-28 on a field goal as time expired, it’s about finishing the job.
Jones said when spring practice begins around the state in late May, the first thing his guys might do is watch that tape – to remember what it was like.
Draper is hoping to go out in style as a senior, but Jones said he understands why OU and its fans are already excited about his pending arrival.
“I’ll tell you OU is getting one of the best kids I know,” Jones said. “This is my 20th year now. You know every coach has a mental Hall of Fame, and he’s right there at the top.”