BYU secured the commitment of College of the Canyons cornerback Sam Lee during his official visit last friday. Sam is LDS and grew up in Maryland, and being from the east coast he wasn't very familiar with the BYU Cougars.
"I had heard about BYU, but in Maryland I don't believe I ever watched them on TV or anything. Being on the east coast, you hear about it, but it's not talked about that much. I was the only Mormon in my school, so the topic of BYU never really came up."
It was Sam's love of missionary work that eventually led to his desire to help get the word out about BYU himself.
"I just thought it was cool, because while I was on my mission a lot of members in Georgia knew that I played football and that I wanted to play football again after my mission. So they would say that I should go to BYU, and I was like 'yeah, that would be cool, I don't really know too much about BYU.' But as a missionary you represent the church and as a BYU football player you're doing the same thing so I thought that would be a cool opportunity. I thought about it, and talked about it with some players after I got off my mission and back to school, and when the BYU recruiter came I was like 'wow, this dream I have might become a reality.'"
His official visit didn't disappoint, and his dream school lived up to the billing.
"It was great, it was a great experience. I've never had an opportunity to be on BYU's campus so for me being there for the first time I was impressed. The first (impressive) part was when I got up there everybody was just so happy, the second part was that the team was still close and they worked hard, I liked that aspect. You can see that they really worked to get where they're at right now to build that program, I thought that was cool. Another thing that I also liked was the spiritual aspect of the school."
Sam's primary strength is his quickness that he inherited from his Filipino mother and his African American father.
"I ran my shuttle in a 3.9, so I'm quicker than I am fast I guess you could say."
Not that he isn't plenty fast himself. Sam runs the forty in 4.4 seconds, and was second team all conference at College of the Canyons this last season. For a 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback to run a 4.4 forty and a 3.9 second shuttle, his athleticism is off the charts. The biggest questions in my mind were: why didn't he have any other offers and why was he under the radar?
"I was a little smaller (in high school), I was a late bloomer, but I was always fast. I didn't even play cornerback in high school, I didn't play corner until I came to College of the Canyons, I always played wide receiver."
Sam was an undersized wide receiver in high school, then after his mission he went to College of the Canyons to play wide receiver. The coaches saw his potential as a cornerback on the other side of the ball however, and made the switch. Having only been back from his mission for 4 months, and never having played cornerback before, Sam was battling for a starting spot. He was showing really well, and would have either started or gotten a lot of playing time, but he hurt his MCL before the first game his freshman year.
For him to come out of the wood work his sophomore year and play as well as he has surprised everybody but him and his coaches. If his head coach at College of the Canyons, Garrett Tujague, hadn't played football at BYU, then the Cougar coaching staff probably wouldn't have ever found out about Sam. The only other school that knows about him and has shown interest is Maryland. Even with the position change and the injury his freshman year, they found out about him, and were likely very close to offering.
"I talked to Maryland last week and they said that they were going to get my transcripts. I thought it was cool that Maryland was interested because they're close to my home, they're my home team."
Sam will have 3 years to play 2, and with Preston Hadley graduating this year, BYU could use a guy with Sam's size, physicality, and athleticism at the boundary corner position next year.
"It's hard to live up to Preston, he's a good athlete. I definitely need to work hard to make plays... I feel like I play the ball really well in coverage, and I like to be physical. I feel that I could play both sides, either boundary corner or field corner. I'm just excited to get on the field, wherever they want to put me is where I'll play and I'll work my hardest. I feel that I could fit well on either side."
He's going to need to work hard, because he won't be graduating until this spring and won't be able to participate in spring camp. He is hopeful that BYU's spring camp will align with College of the Canyons spring break so that he can attend the camp and learn everything he can to get a leg up on earning the starting job in fall camp.
Cougar fans can rest assured that Sam Lee is not going to be content with just a spot on the roster. He has his goals set and he is going to work hard to achieve them. His sights are set on some lofty accomplishments for himself and for the team that he wants everybody on the east coast to be talking about.
"I'm ready to play, and win a national championship."