Newly Graduated Lee Pulling Double Duty

Junior cornerback Patrick Lee talks about his season and a new job for the Cotton Bowl.

Auburn, Ala.--One thing that Auburn and Coach Tommy Tuberville have stressed in recent years is an added emphasis on academics and players earning their degrees. When the Tigers kick off the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day there will be 14 graduates taking part in the game and one of the most recent is defensive back Patrick Lee.

Auburn's third cornerback this season though playing significant minutes in 11 of Auburn's 12 games behind David Irons and Jonathan Wilhite, Lee has become a valuable part of the defense. He says that is important, but the biggest thing he's done is earning his degree, something he promised his family he would do when he left Miami for Auburn almost four years ago.

"It feels good," Lee says. "I'm done and I have no more worries. I'm pretty proud of what I've done. It was for my mom basically. I'm very happy."

Finishing the regular season with 23 tackles and an interception, Lee was on the field at some very big times for the Tigers. The biggest was at the end of the South Carolina game when he broke up a pass intended for Sidney Rice on the last play that would have won the game for the Gamecocks. Lee says looking back on the year he's pleased with how he performed, especially in big situations.

"It has been a good year for me just being out there and doing my job basically," Lee says. "I'm just doing what a DB is supposed to do and that's make plays. I just have to do it because I'm trying to make it to the next level.

"It's huge because there is a lot of pressure on a defensive back," Lee adds. "You never know what you're going to get. If it comes down to the last minute it's all on the defensive backs and the quarterback. That's how it is. It's just hard and a lot of pressure."

Patrick Lee will pull double duty at both cornerback and kickoff return man against Nebraska.

Preparing to face a Nebraska team that runs an offense very similar to what Auburn does, the Tigers have spent a great deal of time working on themselves in the first week of bowl preparation. Lee says that has been good for the defense because it has allowed them to continue becoming more familiar with coordinator Will Muschamp's defense.

"There is still some learning going on," Lee says. "It's not big but there are certain things that some people didn't pick up. It's nothing big, but everybody is still learning. It's more complicated than anything we've done because we're doing a lot more calls. There are certain things we have to do for certain plays. It's definitely more complicated."

While Lee is excited as the defense continues to come together, the happiest he gets is when you ask him about returning kickoffs. With Brad Lester out of the bowl game due to a suspension, Lee will be back deep with Tristan Davis on kickoff returns. He says that he's anxious to make his case for a permanent job in 2007.

"I'm pretty happy," Lee says. "Brad better look out. I'm going to take his spot next year. I have had some chances, but I've never gotten the ball. Brad better look out. I'm just going to look for something open and go. You just have to find a hole and show the burst."

Lee's first responsibility is on defense and the less he gets to return kickoffs the better it will be for the Tigers. Coming into the game after winning a fifth-straight victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl, Lee says the team feels good. That feeling changes though when they think back to the last bowl game. Because of that Lee says Auburn is determined to go out on a high note by playing well in Dallas.

"There is always confidence coming off a win," Lee says. "We just need to play good and be focused for this game. Last year was a different story. We keep that memory around. Every workout we keep it because Yox (Kevin Yoxall) always reminds us about last year. We're focusing on playing better this year."

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories