Redskins G, James Lee Interview
James Lee first went to the University of Georgia to play college football, but later transferred to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to play at South Carolina State. While he was at South Carolina State, he started 31 of 33 games. He entered the 2008 NFL Draft, but went undrafted and then signed with the Cleveland Browns. He was waived before the regular season, but was claimed and signed with the Buccaneers. He was a member of the Buccaneers from 2008-2011, playing eighteen games, with nine starts. He recently signed a contract with the Washington Redskins. This interview was done right after he signed with the Redskins.
Announcement : My name is Max Strauss with www.ProInterviews.org, www.facebook.com/ProInterviews and www.twitter.com/ProInterviews. I’d like to welcome you to the interview with James Lee. Lee first went to University of Georgia, and then transferred to continue playing football at South Carolina State. He then entered the 2008 NFL Draft, but went undrafted. He signed with the Cleveland Browns but was cut before the regular season started. He then was claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was a member of the Buccaneers from 2008 through 2011. He most recently signed a contract with the Washington Redskins. Here is the interview with Redskins OL, James Lee.
Strauss : How do you connect with your fans?
Lee : Either through the Facebook or Twitter. I’m a people person so I interact with a lot of people. I kind of use it to get the message out as far as my foundation, or people contact me to do different things such as interviews, or sometimes for jobs.
Strauss : When did you start playing football?
Lee : I started probably when I was eighth grade or something. It was something that I always wanted to do. My hometown is known for a lot of great athletes in the football world, so as a youngster, I was too big to play. I went out and played a couple of games during my eighth grade, and my mom didn’t want me to play anymore, but once I got into the ninth, I ended up being on Junior Varsity, and then, from there, I knew it was just something that I wanted to do.
Strauss : Who were some athletes you looked up to growing up that were from your hometown?
Lee : I looked up to Jessie Hester and Fred Taylor.
Strauss : What position did you play in eighth grade?
Lee : I was playing on the defensive line.
Strauss : What was it like for you playing high school football?
Lee : I was a defensive tackle in high school, and it was actually good. I had fun. We won a lot. We would beat up a lot of teams. High school football is where you get the chance to have fun. I still have fun now, but at that time, you don’t have all those worries that you have as an adult, so it was really great.
Strauss : Did you have any teammates in high school that are in the NFL now?
Lee : Yes. Santonio Holmes, Ray McDonald, Damien Berry, Randy Phillips were all on the team.
Strauss : Do you have a situation of adversity that you faced growing up that you think has made you a better person and an athlete?
Lee : Just growing up in the neighborhood I grew up in, it was tough. It was really hard seeing a bunch of violence etc. Just seeing a community face poverty, it was hard. I guessed I looked at it as something that I didn’t want to face as an adult, so I knew I had to do whatever it takes to be successful.
Strauss : In high school football, did you win any championships?
Lee : Yes. Actually, I think it was the 2001 team that we ended up winning the State Championship. That was my sophomore year. But the school itself, we’ve won several championships, but I was on that 2001 team.
Strauss : What was your recruiting experience like?
Lee : It was actually pretty good. I was regarded as a pretty high recruit. I ended up taking visits to Florida, South Florida, Western Michigan, Ohio State, which in that year, they had just won the National Championship, and I also went to see Rutgers.
Strauss : Why South Carolina State?
Lee : Actually, I signed to go to University of Georgia and I was there for two years, and then I ended up transferring to South Carolina State back in the January of 2005.
Strauss : Why did you choose Georgia?
Lee : At the time, they had just won the Sugar Bowl and they got a lot of guys, maybe three of their guys who ended up going to the league that year. From John Stinchcomb to George Foster, they were all going into the league, and it was just a great fit for me seeing that I can play a bit early, and so I took it.
Strauss : What was happening at Georgia that made you want to transfer to South Carolina State?
Lee : I wasn’t getting my work done. I was kind of just out of control I would say. I wasn’t going to class. I wasn’t doing the right things, put it like that. Basically, I ended up having to transfer after two years, and I went to transfer to South Carolina State.
Strauss : Did you get playing time in those two years at Georgia?
Lee : One year, during that second year.
Strauss : Was it you personally who were having the issues with the team or was it more of the pressure playing football there? And, how do you think that’s made you a better person?
Lee : I don’t have an issue with the team at all. It was just me as a person and more personal than anything. I was kind of just was doing my own thing. It wasn’t an issue at all as far as the University or the football program. I just think that transferring actually was one of the best decisions that I have made in my life because being at Georgia where everything was given to you as far as, just the smallest things, as far as the equipment or your tutors. They basically gave you every opportunity for me and other athletes there to succeed, and I just didn’t take advantage of it. By going to South Carolina State, it just put me in a position where I had to earn everything that I wanted and needed.
Strauss : What was it like adjusting to Sought Carolina State?
Lee : It was hard. It was different. We’re talking about a DI school going to transfer to DI-AA. Having some of the nicest facilities, and having some of the nicest cafeterias to the dorm rooms, etc. And back in 2005, it was rough in South Carolina State. One small school, predominantly black, and it wasn’t easy for me at first, but I had to get that whole Georgia mentality out of me that everything’s going to be given to me. And from there, I just understood how things are going to go. I adapted and made it happen.
Strauss : Were any other schools interested in you transferring or was it just South Carolina State that you were looking at?
Lee : Basically, I had the choice to go anywhere I wanted to but after me redshirting the previous year, I basically didn’t want to transfer to another DI school, so that I would actually sit down another year, and then only have two years to play. So I chose to go down a level and for some reason at that time, South Carolina State had just won the Conference, and they had a pretty good team and it was the fit, I thought, was good for me.
Strauss : What was your first memory on the field like at South Carolina State?
Lee : It kind of gave me that back home feeling because you’re talking about a predominantly black school. They had a pretty good band, and it wasn’t that big college, where you’re getting 97,000 fans in the stadium. You get 22,000 to 25,000 at most, I think. It was just fun. At that time, I was having fun when I played.
Strauss : What was your senior season like at South Carolina State?
Lee : It was great. I had the chance to play against two DI schools, being Air Force and University of South Carolina. I got a chance to go up against some great guys, and, it was a great season. It was my greatest and best season that I ever had at South Carolina State.
Strauss : Did you have a Pro Day at South Carolina State? How many scouts showed up? How many people did you end up talking to? What was that all like?
Lee : I actually had a good time because previously, maybe the week before, I ended up going to University of Georgia’s Pro Day, and so I kind of got a little hype from that. My Pro Day was the next week, so a lot of the scouts came out, and I did very well. From that Pro Day, I ended up going to visit teams. I had one private workout with the Cleveland Browns and I ended up going to visit the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Chicago Bears.
Strauss : Were you expecting to be drafted?
Lee : Well, I was told that it’ll be late. If so, but if not, I would be a free agent.
Strauss : How soon after the draft did you get a phone call from the Browns?
Lee : Actually, it was before the NFL Draft ended. They gave me a call and they put it out there. It was right up towards the end of the NFL Draft. We had a bunch of teams calling me, and I ended up choosing to go to the Cleveland Browns.
Strauss : What was it like to sign contract with the Browns and be a part of the—and how long did you stay with the Browns?
Lee : Basically through the final preseason game.
Strauss : What was it like when you were cut?
Lee : It was one of those things where you know, I understood. You got all these guys here, so you already have fifty-three on the roster. They wanted to put me on practice squad. At the time, I understood, and I knew everything would work out.
Strauss : What was it like to step onto the field in your first NFL game?
Lee : It was a dream come true! One of the best feelings ever.
Strauss : How did you do on you first play in the NFL?
Lee : (Laughs) Actually, the play didn’t even go down. It was a penalty. I ended up coming out of the game. I actually went in as a tight end. That first play… It was good to step out on the field, but it was actually a penalty. So I ended up going back to the sideline.
Strauss : That’s pretty funny for your first memory on the field. What has it been like with the Buccaneers in the past few years?
Lee : It was good. Tampa’s been great to me. My first year like I said went really good. My second year I was on practice squad for a little while, and then I got moved up. My third year I ended up starting nine games. Last year, I started one game. The past four years has been great, and I have enjoyed every moment of it.
Strauss : What was it like during the 2010 season? You earned a lot of time playing and you guys were very good… What was that all like?
Lee : We were on a roll. It was very good. We were winning. We were coming back in the fourth quarter, and we were beating teams. A lot of people were expecting us to do bad because we had come off that 3-13 season, and it was just a big turnaround for us, so we were excited and happy.
Strauss : And you got to see a lot of Blount and Freeman playing with them. What have you seen out of both and where do you see their future going?
Lee : Nothing, but greatness. You’re talking about two dominant players. Josh Freeman, the guy is a beast at quarterback, and you’re talking about LeGarrette Blount who is only in his third year, and that year being his rookie year. He showed the world some things that he always had in him, but he had that situation back in college. I definitely see major things coming out from both in the future.
Strauss : How excited are you to be a Washington Redskin?
Lee : It feels good! I get a new beginning and a fresh start, so I’m excited about it.
Strauss : Robert Griffin III… What’s that going to be like blocking for him?
Lee : I’m excited to be able to block for him. Just the things that he has done in college being a Heisman trophy winner, and just because of what he actually brings to the team and to the game. I’m excited to see what he brings to the field.
Strauss : If you could describe yourself as any ice cream flavor, what would you be and why?
Lee : (Laughs) Why ice cream? That’s my question? I guess I’ll say butter pecan, because that’s one of my favorites. Why would I describe myself that way? I guess you can call the pecans, bumps in the road. In my life, I’ve had bumps and trials and at the end of the day, I end up getting through them all. It still turned out for me to be a good situation.
Strauss : What is 77 ways?
Lee : 77 ways is just my twitter name and basically, I came up with seventy-seven ways for me to be successful in life.
Strauss : and, What is team Lee?
Lee : Team Lee is my foundation that I have. We help the kids in Palm Beach County, but mainly Belle Glade. It’s my foundation that I’ve started, and we host a camp every year. We go into the schools. We have adopted three schools, all the ones that I attended, my elementary school, middle school, and high school. We basically run different programs and contests throughout the year to give kids inspiration to do better in school. I provide different gifts to them if they are succeeding and doing well. I’ll send them either something autographed by me or a teammate. We also give them the opportunity to host twenty four seats a game during every home game. We supply a bus from Belle Glade to Tampa, so they can come and enjoy a Buccaneers’ home game.
Strauss : From all of the events that all of the events you’ve hosted for Team Lee, what is your favorite memory of something that you’ve hosted?
Lee : My first year of the James Lee Youth Football camp. I have hosted it every year in my hometown and they proclaimed the second Saturday of June to be James Lee Day.
Strauss : For someone who wants to play football in the NFL, what’s the best advice you can give them?
Lee : Get your education because at the end of the day, your education is more important than playing football. You can’t play football without an education so either way you want to put it, education is key.
Strauss : Is there anything else you want to tell your fans that we haven’t really talked about?
Lee : Just really want to let my fans know that I appreciate all the love and support that they show me either here in Tampa or elsewhere. Without them, there wouldn’t be a me. I’ll just thank them for their support and what they have done to help me be the player that I am.
Strauss : Thanks so much for your time James. I really appreciate it.
Lee : Alright. No problem.
Announcement : Thank you for listening to the interview with James Lee. I hope you enjoyed it. Please check out my website www.prointerviews.org for other interviews, “LIKE” the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ProInterviews, and follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/ProInterviews. Thanks again for listening! Stay tuned for more, and feel free to contact me.
Strauss : Who was your role model growing up?
Lee : My parents. Because I saw the struggle and I saw how hard they worked. I saw how they provided for me and they really made it all possible. I looked up to them because they worked their butts off to give me the best opportunities that I could possibly have.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite TV show?
Lee : I probably have to go with ESPN SportsCenter.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite movie of all time?
Lee : I really like the movie, Friday.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite type of pie?
Lee : I’d have to say apple pie.
Strauss : What would be your last meal on earth?
Lee : Fried Chicken from Popeye’s.
Strauss : Do you have a pre-game ritual?
Lee : No, I don’t. I kind of just let things flow before the game.
Strauss : Do you have a favorite song to listen to before a game?
Lee : I don’t necessarily have just one song. I just have a couple of artists that I go to and listen to before the game.
Strauss : What artists?
Lee : I listen to Young Jeezy, Jay-Z, JW, Rick Ross, and Nick Mills.
Strauss : If you could have any super power, what could it be?
Lee : If I could fly and if I had wings or a booster so that I could fly just to be able to get from one point to another.
Strauss : Thank you for answering the personal questions to the interview.