“Oh, man, I’m super-excited. I’m too turnt up! I’m fixing to play my first football game in my back yard. So I’ve got to turn up!”
Sounds as if Dontavian Lee is ready to ring some bells himself. In fact he literally is as we’ll get to in a moment. Seriously though, this redshirted running back is so ready to pull on the game gear and step onto a real playing field, he can hardly endure the delay.
“It’s only Tuesday. We’ve still got four days so right now we’re still getting prepared.”
Lee has been preparing for a while. The highly-touted back from Hattiesburg has spent…no, let’s call it endured a full school year and more awaiting activation. Mississippi State had Josh Robinson and Nick Griffin to haul the ball in 2014 with occasional help from Ashton Shumpert and Brandon Holloway. So Lee and classmate Aeris Williams spent their first fall doing scout team stuff.
In spring ball, though, Lee got his chance to sho...sorry, turn up. He did. Observers saw his mix of power and speed with a classic sort of tailback stride Emory Bellard would have loved.
Redshirting wasn’t fun. Yet by his happy coincidence it does allow Lee to debut in the home town. An alumnus of Forrest County AHS, Lee might have stayed in the neighborhood and played college ball.
Certainly he’d have been activated a lot sooner.
At least Lee has in retrospect made peace with sitting a season to get acclimated to a sophisticated spread offensive approach. “How comfortable? Oh, I’m very comfortable, man. I’ve been here a whole year before today. So I ain’t nothing but to know the system. I redshirted, I had nothing to do, I just practiced and learned the playbook.”
Nothing, huh? Like a Bulldog practice isn’t serious enough stuff?
“Yeah, but I love playing football. Practice and playing football, to me it’s different.”
The waiting game is over and Lee can really play starting Saturday. OK, he won’t be starting this Saturday, but eventually alternating after elders Shumpert and Holloway. Backs Coach Greg Knox won’t tell Lee exactly what the script is for him.
“He hasn’t said anything like that. He says when you get your chance you’ve got to execute. That’s all he ever says.” Of course Lee has seen what a Bulldog back can do when the execution is on. Since Dan Mullen took over, Mississippi State has been sending running backs to the NFL with regularity. Anthony Dixon, Vick Ballard, Robinson, quite a roll to call over one coaching tenure.
It is also a standard to match. Hence Lee’s attention to final game-week details. “I’m just trying to lock-in, get everything I’ve got in the gameplan tight. And, go execute.” And if he must wait for his turn to tote?
“I don’t think nothing about that. I’m a freshman, we’ve got people ahead of me. When I get my chance I’ve got to execute at a high level and make plays, put points on the board.”
Thing is, Lee isn’t the only redshirt ready to run. It would make a fine wager which of the two second-fall frosh gets first turn, he or Williams. Lee loves his running budy.
“Oh, man, Aeris Williams is the real deal. We don’t call him the A-Train for nothing.” Nor is it for naught Lee and Williams share a tag-team title.
“Well we’re the Bang Brothers. But I’m the X-Hammer. It comes from high school when I would just hammer everybody, go get the yards. Coach would say go get it.”
Lee certainly can go get it. Even in traffic. Actually it’s more correct to say ‘especially in traffic’ because this is one runner who won’t shy from contact. To put it mildly. Asked his specific strengths, Lee smiles.
“I know one thing, whoever is trying to hit me, they’re going to be hurt. Because I’m going to bring that thump.”
So opening-day defenders can consider themselves warned. Or at least challenged. Lee does know a few faces on the Golden Eagle sideline of course, like Picasso Nelson and Cornell Armstrong and a few others he presumably thumped in high school battles. He’s looking forward to impromptu reunions come Saturday night.
And, not just as a running back. Lee may be the one Mississippi State soul at Roberts Stadium hoping his team loses the coin toss. That would get him on the field immediately, Lee figures.
“I’m a kickoff cover guy. I’m a four.” Which means? “I can’t tell you that!”
Nope, we’ll all just have to turn or is it turnt up, and see for ourselves.