Tuesdays in Vanier | A Look at Freshman Elijah Lee

A former standout for the Blue Springs Wildcats, the K-State true freshman is now - through his hard work and determination - making an impact on the field for his new Wildcat squad.
"I can't say the color has changed, because (at Blue Springs) we were the same color, and I can't say the logo, because it was the same logo, too," laughed Lee when asked what the biggest difference was between high school ball at Blue Springs and college ball at K-State. "So it's probably the competition. In high school you have kids who are there just to play, almost everybody makes the team, but in college you're going against the best another school has to offer. You always have to work hard to make a play."
Playing in all seven games this year, like he noted, Lee has gone up against numerous Big 12 opponents boasted as the "best their schools have to offer." It's been an exciting ride filled with new experiences for the freshman, but on the flipside, Lee has also put himself in the position to compete with the best.
That's what he has worked for since day one. On his first day at K-State, he knew he wanted to get on the field and make an impact.
 
"I decided that if I came in and worked hard there was no way they were going to keep me off the field," said Lee. "My main focus is to just try and stay out in front of the pack as far as working hard and not let distractions get to me."
Lee leads K-State with 3.5 sacks. His most recent sack came against Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes in the Wildcats' 23-0 win last Saturday. On a third down play, Lee knocked Swoopes back 10 yards and pushed the Longhorns outside of field goal range - a key play that helped Kansas State preserve the shutout.  
"That sack was exciting because it took them out of field goal range, and it was on TV - I've never done that before," said Lee. He smiled ear-to-ear as he explained it was the first time he's made a big play on national television. "The fans were going crazy knowing that their punt team was coming out instead of their field goal team. That helped us keep them from scoring."
Along with his 3.5 sacks, Lee has recorded 10 total tackles this season. With a hunger to improve every day, Lee's teammates say he's a competitor with an attitude different than most young players. 
"His maturity is his biggest thing," said sophomore linebacker Will Davis. "Whether it's Monday at practice or Saturday at a game, he treats every day the same just like you would expect a senior caption to do. I think that's the biggest thing for him; he's so mature for such a young guy."
And it's not just Davis who has taken notice of Lee's maturity level - other players see it too.
"I remember this summer when he first got here, he immediately began asking the older guys about the defense and about the skills," said junior defensive back Morgan Burns. "He tried to learn as much as he could. Most freshmen come in expecting to redshirt or wait a few years before they get on the field, but it shows a lot of maturity and poise on his part. Not many 18-year-olds can be thrown in a Division I game in front of thousands of fans and perform like he has. That shows a lot of poise."
Agreeing with both Davis and Burns, senior linebacker and team captain Jonathan Truman said, "Elijah is a really hard working guy. I'm not surprised one bit (at his success) because once he stepped on campus he was very eager to learn, got better and is trying to be the best that he can be. I've seen that from him."
Having walked in Lee's shoes, junior defensive lineman Travis Britz also saw playing time as a true freshman in 2012. Britz said he has enjoyed sharing advice with his young teammate this season.
"I remember talking to him before the first game, and he said he was nervous, you know, but everyone gets nervous before their first play," explained Britz. "There was nothing to worry about. Now he's come here and has three and a half sacks, that's amazing for a true freshman... He's a great athlete; he's quick, he works hard, he's coachable - he's a great asset to our team and a good guy."
Midway through the 2014 season Lee has continued to grow and improve. His experience continues to make him a stronger player and, in the years to come, K-State head coach Bill Snyder is confident Lee's early experience will only make him a bigger threat to any opposing team's offense down the road.
"Elijah has done well. He's making headway and improvement," said Snyder. "He's going to be a very, very fine player. The more playing time he gets, the better he'll get. He runs around, he's athletic and he can change directions. He's a bright young fellow who picks things up, and right now he's just at the level of needing experience. Every repetition in practice and in a game adds to his strengths."
Growing, learning and adding to his football resume with each and every game, Lee is ready to continue to make an impact on the field for the Wildcats.  
"I've grown more confident. I don't think of myself as a freshman as much, but more that I'm out there playing to help my team out," said Lee. "The next step now is to just learn from every game, to try to improve and to get a sack every game. I want to continue to try and help my team." 
K-State (6-1, 4-0 Big 12) is set to take on Oklahoma State (5-3, 3-2 Big 12) on Saturday, Nov. 1, in Bill Snyder Family Stadium. The game is set to kick off at 7 p.m., and will be aired on ABC. For more information on this weekend's game, click here
Saturday's game also marks the annual Cats For Cans Food Drive, in which K-State student-athletes partner with the Flint Hills Breadbasket to fight hunger in the Manhattan Area. Fans are encouraged to help the Wildcats out by bringing canned foods or cash donations for the Flint Hills Breadbasket to Saturday's game. Student-athletes will begin collecting two hours prior to kickoff in the stadium parking lots and at all entrances of Bill Snyder Family Stadium. 
 

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