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September 18, 2008There are plenty of distractions out there for a college quarterback.
Whether it's preparing for evading the rush of a 300-pound defender or just dealing with newfound popularity around campus, there are a mulititude of ways to become sidetracked.
But Mississippi State's Tyson Lee is not your typical quarterback. Lee has his goals and ideals set a lot higher than your typical 20-year old.
"What I am most passionate about is seeing people's lives changed," Lee said. "I'm passionate about helping others. I want to see guys come to know Christ. I want to see guys really get focused about life. I've grown up and seen a lot of guys get off track. That's why I want to become a teacher and eventually a principal and a coach. I definitely hope I can steer guys in the right direction and have an influence on them the same way other people had an influence on me."
It was Lee's faith that led him to Starkville. Most junior college All-American quarterbacks have recruiters breaking down the door to sign them, but that wasn't the case for Lee. After throwing for 4,432 yards and 31 touchdowns during his career at Itawamba Community College, Lee only had a handful of Division II schools contact him. Lee felt like his 5-foot-11 height caused most schools to be wary.
"I guess it's the short syndrome," Lee said. "But God did a lot there with all the awards. Looking back now it's amazing what all He has done and what He did while I was there. Even when all of that happened, I talked to a few Division II schools towards the end of my sophomore season. But it wasn't anywhere where my heart was. I knew if I wanted to dedicate the next two years to something that I wanted to go where my heart was. I felt like my heart was here at Mississippi State."
Lee decided to take a chance and walk-on to the Bulldog program back in the spring. The gamble paid off as he not only made the team, but also earned a scholarship from head coach Sylvester Croom in the process.
"I prayed about it for a while," Lee said. "God gave me a peace about it and I went with it. There was a chance that I wouldn't make it and there was a chance that I would. I guess I took that chance. I believed that I could and had a peace about it that I could. I just went out on faith and came."
Playing at Mississippi State has been a dream come true for Lee, who grew up in nearby Columbus.
"I'm from Columbus so it's just 25-30 minutes down the road," Lee said. "I always grew up liking football and State was close to home so State was my team. I would come over here on occasion to watch some of their games. From the time I started liking football, I was always a Mississippi State Bulldog fan."
Lee can vividly remember coming out of the locker room during the Bulldogs season opener at Louisiana Tech and hearing a familiar sound he has heard all his life, except this time it seemed different.
"Somebody asked me how it felt to play and I never will forget walking out of the locker room and hearing cowbells," Lee said. "You come to games and might be ringing a cowbell or hear other people ringing a cowbell, but when I walked out they were ringing it for us. It was so crazy especially the first home game. I remember sitting in the stands and watching guys walk out, that was unbelievable."
Lee is currently second on the depth chart behind Wesley Carroll at quarterback. Lee said he has to prepare as if he were the starter because any given play the reins could be handed over to him.
"In a game or in practice, you have to be ready to play at anytime," Lee said. "We saw that the other night when Auburn's running back (Brad Lester) going down. Every play has the potential for a person being hurt. You just have to take it like the next play you are going to be in and be ready if that opportunity does present itself."
Lee played in the first two games for the Bulldogs completing 13-of-18 passing for 112 yards. Lee hit on 10-of-15 passing in his debut at Louisiana Tech for 85 yards and was a perfect 3-of-3 against Southeastern Louisiana for 27 yards in week two.
"I'm really just taking it one play at a time," Lee said. "One play, this play would be the best motto. I'm realizing whether it's a run, playaction or if it's a throw that every play could be the difference in the ball game. You can't really take a play off. Everybody has their one-eleventh of the play and you have to do your one-eleventh to make the play work."
Lee did not see action last week in a 3-2 loss against No. 9 Auburn. The Bulldogs only accounted for 116 yards and were shutout on offense. Lee said he was hopeful the offense would come around before time expired against the Tigers.
"As a team, we knew we needed one play," Lee said. "Auburn played defense and obviously our defense played great and we just knew we needed one play. I was just waiting on somebody to make that one play. Time just kept going off the clock and that play hadn't been made. I had faith and believed that somebody on the team was going to make that play but we just weren't able to make it."
Despite the team's lackluster offensive performance last week, Lee still believes in the offense as well as in Carroll under center.
"Wes is the starter and Wes will be fine this week," Lee said. "We as an offense just have to get it together."
Lee does not think the task will be easy facing an aggressive Georgia Tech defense on Saturday. He has been impressed with what he has seen from the Yellow Jacket defensive unit on film.
"They look like they play hard," Lee said. "They come downhill and we have to just execute. From the beginning of the season up until now, we haven't executed. But as far as Georgia Tech, they play sound football, they are aggressive, disciplined and play hard. We have to be ready when they bring it downhill to attack them."
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