Last season, Tony Levine was one of the best special teams coordinators in the nation, as he helped Purdue football win its first bowl game since 2011. Now Levine is an owner/operator of a Chick-fil-A franchise that is scheduled to open in roughly six weeks in the Houston suburb of Missouri City.
While changing occupations is not uncommon in the world of college football, Levine’s move from coaching to the food business is something entirely different from what we normally see. In an article published on Monday, Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman took a deep dive into Levine’s decision to leave football for Chick-fil-A.
As the piece points out, Feldman resigned from his job as Purdue’s special teams coach after last season in order to focus more on his family. Levine wanted to give more time to his four children and wanted to move his family back to Houston, the city Levine and his family grew to love from 2011-14 when he was the coach at Houston.
In the article, Levine said: “The reasons when I was 23 years old that I wanted to get into coaching, the things that I’ve been passionate about for most of my life — developing people, team-building, identifying and recruiting talent, competing — while I had a love for those, I saw an opportunity with Chick-fil-A to become an owner/operator where a lot of those same things that I was passionate about I could keep doing, and the ability to stay in Houston was very important to my wife and I and our family as a whole.”
After he went 21-17 in three years as Houston’s coach, Levine was let go from the job and spent the next 14 months out of coaching. During that time, he and his family stayed in Houston, where he was able to be more involved in the lives of his children. That included coaching the flag football team that two of his sons played on, attending his daughter’s dance recitals and much more.
Although Levine returned to coaching in 2016 as the special teams and tight ends coach for Western Kentucky and eventually made his way to Purdue in 2017, the article points out that Levine always liked the idea of returning to Houston.
The article also notes that Levine told Purdue coach Jeff Brohm prior to the 2017 Foster Farms Bowl against Arizona that he would not be returning to the Boilermakers staff in 2018.
“I know he loved coaching and you could tell it was tough,” Brohm said in the article. “It’s a different path to go and it takes a lot of courage to do. But I think he’ll do great because he’s such a man of high integrity and it’s a great move for him and his family. I did tell him, ‘If you ever change your mind down the road, I’m a phone call away.’ ”
With Levine back at home, he is able to be with his wife, Erin, who is battling breast cancer. The article notes that it is a scary time for the Levine family, but also says that Erin is appreciative of Levine being home to support her and to help out with their children.
When Levine does have to leave his family for work, he will not be very far away, as the at Chick-fil-A is only two miles from his home.
To read the full article by Feldman, click here.