The average student in this day and age graduates in close to five years. For Auburn receiver Lee Guess, five years was enough to earn an undergrad in business marketing and a Masters in Business Administration. On Thursday, Guess walked across the stage for a second time, just one semester after exhausting his football eligibility.
"It kind of crept up on me with my undergrad," Guess explains. "I was coming into my second year and I was halfway done and (director of Student Athlete Support Services) Virgil (Starks) brought it to my attention. He said, ‘You realize if you wanted to you could be done in three years?' I was like, ‘Has anyone ever done that?' He said no so I thought maybe I could hold the record for something, maybe if it wasn't football then I could do it for academics. After that they pushed me to get my MBA and I thought I'd give it a shot.
"I was taking 15 hours or more," he continues. "Fifteen or 16 was my average. I didn't think twice about it. I've always been disciplined and I've always made myself exceed more than my friends did. Everybody was coasting through 12 hours and that wasn't really enough for me, especially the first two years. I was redshirted and then I was just starting to learn the offense. I knew I wasn't going to be playing so I turned my efforts into my studies. Basically by my second year I was three-fourths of the way through."
Guess poses for a photo with parents Chris and Connie.
As a senior in Hewitt-Trussville High School, Guess caught a 6A state record of 93 catches from Brandon Cox, who also received a degree on Thursday. The production dropped off as a college receiver as he caught 13 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown over his career. However, he was playing behind four players currently in the NFL and his role increased as a senior. He scored a two-point conversion against Georgia and another crucial two-pointer in Auburn's seven-point victory over Alabama. In the Cotton Bowl, the final game of his career, Guess wrestled a jump ball away from a Nebraska defender in the end zone for what appeared to be a touchdown, but the official ruled the pass incomplete.
"I took my last snaps of the ball down here," he says, "and that's good enough for me. I'm happy.
"I ended on a high note and that's what I'm glad about," Guess says of his increased role in 2006. "That's what I always try for, even in grad school. Last semester I only had two classes and I knew I was graduating, but I don't feel right and I don't feel like I'm doing myself justice if I don't push until there is nothing else to push. I came out with an A and a B in both of my classes when I could have just gotten C's. That's just my nature."
Guess makes a play as a senior for an Auburn team that finished 11-2.
Many graduating seniors in Tommy Tuberville's program get a shot at the NFL or CFL. That's not in Guess' future plans, but he has plenty of options now that his schooling and playing days are over. While he was finishing his MBA, Guess was also coaching receivers in spring practice at a small college in Montgomery and he might even sign on as a coach full-time.
"It might happen in a couple of weeks," Guess explains. "We'll see how that goes. We're working out little details and seeing how that goes. It might even be in Montgomery. A couple of former Auburn GA's (graduate assistants) are starting a football program at Faulkner University. They called me up after I was done with football this past season and they asked if I wanted to come help out during spring training. I took that and I decided if I liked it then I would go with it.
"If you see me in a couple of years applying for jobs in the SEC or something like that, then I might like the coaching. I'm not just going to coach the first couple of years, I'm planning to use my MBA. I'm more of an entrepreneur. We'll see what ideas I can come up with."
Guess was one of seven Auburn football players and 46-student athletes who received a diploma at the end of the spring semester.