Exclusive Interview: Pitt WR Greg Lee

Pittsburgh wide receiver Greg Lee recently talked about making catches in tight coverage, showing no fear across the middle, his Combine experience (including the interest of a certain Pacific Northwest team!) and more in this exclusive interview.

Editor's Note: At the 2006 Scouting Combine, the Seahawks had a formal interview with Pitt receiver Greg Lee and showed some interest in his Pro Day.

While the pecking order of the receiver corps has been re-shuffled a bit after the loss of Joe Jurevicius to Cleveland and the assumed aqcuisition of Minnesota's Nate Burleson, it is believed by most draft experts that Seattle will look to draft depth at the position, most likely in the later rounds. Could Lee be that choice? There's no doubt that this young man has the determination needed to take the next step. We're happy to present this recent profile of Lee, written by ColtPower.com's Todd Taylor.

As a freshman, Greg Lee saw little playing time at the University of Pittsburgh. However, Lee watched and learned from one of the best to ever play wide receiver at the college level, Larry Fitzgerald.

“I learned a lot of my skills from Larry as far as using my body and shielding defenders off to catch the ball,” Lee said.

Lee capitalized on his limited playing time his freshman year, grabbing 10 catches for 211 yards that season. He knew the departure of Fitzgerald to the NFL would equate to a special opportunity for him during his sophomore season at Pittsburgh in 2004.

“I knew if I was given the opportunity my sophomore year I could make a lot of plays and get a lot of yards,” he said.

And make a lot of plays and get a lot of yards he did. Lee was among the top receivers in the nation his sophomore year, compiling 68 catches, 1,297 yards and 10 touchdowns. He helped guide the Panthers to an 8-4 record and Big East title in 2004.

Following the 2004 season, high profile alumni and ex-Miami Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt took over the Pittsburgh coaching job for the departed Walt Harris. When Wannstedt hired ex-Raven’s offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh to run Pittsburgh’s offense, Lee knew a change was in store.

“When I heard we were getting him (Cavanaugh) I looked up the stats from his last season in Baltimore and his number one receiver only had 544 yards the entire season. I looked at that and knew it was more of a run based offense and there was a possibility he would implement that offense here,” Lee said.

Lee was right. The Panthers threw 70 less times for 712 less yards than the season before. Inevitably, Lee’s numbers suffered a drop off.

“It was kind of frustrating at the beginning. I was planning on having a better year than my sophomore season and at the beginning of the year we really weren’t throwing the ball that much. We weren’t winning any games; we lost our first three games,” he said.

Despite the Panthers’ commitment to the run, Lee had a solid junior season with 49 catches, 962 yards and 7 touchdowns. Lee still made his patented big plays and averaged 19.6 yards per catch, up from 19.1 in 2004. After the 2005 season, Lee made a decision to take his big-play ability to the big stage and declared eligible for the 2006 NFL draft.

“I knew at the beginning of the season (2005) that would be a possibility for me. At the end of the season, I really took a look at this year's receiving draft class and realized it wasn’t as strong as the prior year. Also, personally I was ready to go on and take it to the next level,” Lee said.

Lee’s good size, ability to make tough catches over the middle and big play ability should make him a steal in the fourth round, where the NFL projected him to be drafted. Additionally, his easy-going demeanor and work ethic could prove to be contagious in an NFL locker room.

“I’m a laid back kind of person, one that you won’t have to worry about any off the field trouble. I’m a player that plays the game with a passion, really likes to have a lot of fun and I like to generate that kind of energy in other people as well,” he said.

Recently, our friend Ed Thompson from ColtPower.com caught up with Lee and came away with this exclusive interview:

Q: You've displayed some great concentration skills, making some terrific catches in tight coverage.  Has that always been a strength for you?  How do you manage to ignore a guy who's all over you when the ball hits your hands? 

Greg Lee: I guess it has always been a strength.  I don't ever ignore the guy; I can always sense that he's there.  Catching a ball in tight coverage is a matter of catching the ball and either preparing yourself for the hit or catching the ball and putting it away so that when he hits you the ball won't come out.  I've never caught the ball in a tight situation, gotten hit and not known the defender was there.  You know you have a job to do when you get the ball, so the defender really has no bearing on whether you catch the ball or not.

Q:  You also seem to find the weak spots in the defense to increase your odds of making the big play, is that more a result of studying game film or simply reacting to what you see at the snap of the ball?

GL: It has a lot to do with game film, but for the most part it is more reaction.  When you've been playing the game as long as I've been playing it (since 3rd grade) you develop an action-reaction thing.  Your body is almost trained to react to certain kinds of things.  Watching game film definitely helps me out so I don't have to rely so much on reaction.

Q:  You had a slight dropoff in receiving yards last year after a strong sophomore year. Do you think teams are realizing that was primarily due to Pitt making a head coach switch that brought in a more balanced offense … and as a result you might be a real steal if you're still available in the fourth round?

GL:  I'm hoping so.  I hope I'll be off the board by the fourth round but I'm not really sure.  They put so much into Combine and 40-times and some other coaches really do watch film and break down a player as far as what he can do on the field.

Q:  I know you take your share of big hits in order to make catches.  You don't show any fear going across the middle.  Do you think that may help you get on the field your rookie year as a slot receiver?

GL:  Yeah, I'm hoping so.  I really don't have any preference where I'm put on the field as long as I'm on there.  Maybe a slot position is more for the shorter, quicker receivers.   

Q:  What was the most enjoyable part of the Combine?

GL:  Meeting the other players that you have watched your entire college career.  I met Reggie Bush, Vince Young and Matt Leinart…all the top guys, and really got to know them as people, rather than just football players. 

Q: What was the hardest part?

GL:  All the testing, we had medical tests the second day I was there.  It's real strenuous.  You have to try to motivate yourself going from test to test.

Q:  Do you think the Combine experience raised your stock or just helped maintain your ground?

GL:  I'm not sure, I think in reference to my interviews, route-running and ball-catching skills, I think I may have raised my stock a little bit.  My 40 time was the best I've ever ran but there were a lot of guys who ran faster than that so I'm not sure what effect that had on my stock.  All in all I think I raised it, if anything.

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