First impressions don’t always show the full picture.
Roger Levesque may have been a prime example of that when he arrived on the campus of Stanford University.
An unassuming kid from a small town, Levesque was a face in the crowd on his recruiting visit, fitting in well with the group of players for the Cardinal that year without doing a great deal to stand out.
In the summer leading up to his freshman year, though, his teammates caught a greater glimpse at what was to become of the well-decorated player from Falmouth, Maine. That is when Sports Illustrated ran a photo of their “Got Milk?” All-Americans, with each player in the picture, including Levesque, sporting a milk mustache.
“We were thinking to ourselves that this guy is either going to be an absolute awesome find or just a bust,” said Taylor Graham, who would quickly become one of Levesque’s closest friends.
The accolades were well-deserved, even if Levesque wasn’t a highly-sought recruit.
He was twice named Gatorade’s Maine Player of the Year while leading Falmouth High School to consecutive state championships. He also won three state basketball titles, twice earning the state’s Class C Player of the Year honors, and was a standout baseball player, too.
“He was the kid from Maine, just a small-town kid. He was good at everything he did and he always had a smile on his face,” recalled LA Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant, who played with Levesque at Stanford and with the San Jose Earthquakes. “He was the nicest kid in the world and that really hasn’t changed over the years.”
Even with those credentials, he needed an extra boost to catch the eye of head coach Bobby Clark and a hand-written letter was all it took. Impressed with the time and effort put in by Levesque to write the letter, which was accompanied by video clips and a photo, Clark went out to a tournament in Pennsylvania to scout him.
There, Levesque’s team was trounced by a powerhouse club from Pennsylvania 6-0, but he still stood out as a talent on whom worth following up.
“Roger hardly touched the ball, but there was just something about him,” said Clark, now the head coach at Notre Dame.
In the summer of 1999, Levesque arrived in Palo Alto ready to play any role asked of him by the coaches, who initially planned to red-shirt him. Instead, he further impressed the coaches and made 12 appearances as a true freshman. In his sophomore season, he added seven goals and seven assists while playing a reserve role.
That season, the Cardinal outscored their opponents 68-10 while going 18-3-1, but fell in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.
While his sophomore role was secondary on that team, it was just a precursor to the success he would see as a junior.
Fourteen goals and nine assists as a junior earned him Pac-10 Player of the Year honors as he began to show more of the personality that has made him a cultural phenomenon with the Seattle Sounders FC.
“He was always working hard and listening to the older guys. He was going to earn his keep and did what he needed to do to fit into the team,” Dunivant said. “Once he became a veteran he started to embrace the mentality of being a free spirit.”
In his senior season, he finished with seven goals and 13 assists, playing a portion of the season with a knee injury suffered during a particularly intense training session, yet still helping Stanford reach the College Cup, where they fell 1-0 to UCLA in the NCAA title game.
From there, he embarked on his professional career that on Wednesday will come to a close as he plays his final match with the Sounders FC – a friendly match against Chelsea.
Much like his four years at Stanford, his four years in MLS with the Sounders FC started with an unassuming kid from the second division who was looking to get his shot, and in the end, finished as a widely celebrated and decorated player.
Along the way, he grabbed the attention of fans and media across the country with his outgoing personality and entertaining goal celebrations.
Beneath it all, though, still resides the small-town kid from Maine, humbly playing any role asked of him to help his team win.
“He’s selfless. He doesn’t need the spotlight. He doesn’t need the stats,” Dunivant said. “As long as his teams are winning, which they always have, then he’s happy.”