Some may not know what it is, others know exactly what it is without further explantation, and for former Blue Earth Area High School graduate Nick Lee, son of Donna (Paul) Nawrocki and Bill Lee, it was a field of opportunity.
A field of opportunity that gave Lee his first glimpse into the possible future as a professional football player when he participated in the Minnesota Vikings’ recent Pro Day.
Lee graduated BEAHS in 2010 and played for the Bucs as a wide receiver, mostly. Then, when he graduated from high school, he eventually made it to Augustana University where he was the tight end for the Augustana Vikings he even joined his brothers Jake and Sam on the Augustana field for a few seasons.
After graduating from Augustana last spring, Lee has kept busy at graduate school. He has already been at the University of Nebraska, Omaha for one year and says he has a few years left before he graduates with a master’s degree in exercise science.
When Lee is not hitting the books, learning about the sciences behind exercise, he is hitting the gym, and hitting it hard.
“I had access to the gym, so I just started lifting weights and running a lot last fall,” says Lee, who continued to chip away at his fitness goals, training every single day in fall and winter.
“I worked out every day. Depending on the day it was either lifting or running, or recovery days, but I made sure to do something every day,” says Lee.
So how did he get the opportunity to show Viking coaches and scouts alike what he was made of? From an old friend, of course. He called on his BEAHS football buddy from high school, Jonah Pirsig, who also happens to play for the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
“I basically just asked my friend Jonah Pirsig if I could get a coach’s email to let them know I?was interested in participating, and he came through for me,” says Lee.
Once Lee reached out to the coach, he was given the go-ahead to participate in the day’s events. However, there was a small catch.
“[The coach] said since I wasn’t being requested to be there by anyone and was asking for my own opportunity, he said I would be able to run two 40-yard dashes, and if the coaches didn’t like what they saw, I was done,” says Lee, who fortunately had a good day on the field, catching the eyes of coaches and allowing him to continue throughout the day.
Five hours of cumbersome paperwork and grueling practice drills like vertical jumps, broad jumps, a 20 yard shuttle, the three column, 225 bench press test and 60 yard shuttles had Lee looking sharp for scouts.
“You go through all the combine testing and then, at the end, they take all the positions and split them into groups and work through individual drills,” said Lee. “It was a lot of work, pretty long day, but I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to do that.”
Right after the day had finished, Lee was approached by multiple coaches and scouts commending him on his good day on the field. It was at that time, Lee knew he should strike while the iron was hot.
“I called my dad right away to have him talk to his lawyer to see if he knew any football agents available,” said Lee. “And that’s how I ended up signing with agent James Selmer of the Twin Cities.”
Selmer ended up contacting Lee on the ride home from his astounding display at the Pro Day.
“We talked a good little bit, and I decided that I wanted him to represent me,” says Lee. “Once I signed with him, he started working on contacting teams.”
Though he was not picked to play for the Vikings, Lee says there is still ample time for opportunity to knock before training season starts.
“There are many different reasons a team may want to look at me as a player, and I am ready if I get the call,” he says.
Until then, Lee says he is staying focused, but not getting too far ahead of the game.
“I try not to stress over something I can’t control,” he says. “Right now, I just do my workouts and recovery stuff and try to be as in shape as I can. That’s what I can control right now.”
One of his classmates from Augustana, C.J. Ham, also attended a Pro Day and a mini-camp that coincided with the day and was able to sign with the Minnesota Vikings as a running back. Lee says he is excited for his teammate and hopes to join him on the professional field someday soon.
And for Lee, as well as his family, it is and always has been about putting your best foot forward and taking lessons from every aspect of life.
Lee shared some sound advice for local high school athletes who are looking to follow their dreams into professional athletics.
He says, “If you have the dream, do everything you can to get it. I was one year out of college and I just started to chip away at it and I decided what I wanted to do. I was doing everything I possibly could to make things happen. You might be from a small town, but if you put the work in, it will pay off.”
So, perhaps for Lee, who felt the heat of the game on the turf at Winter Park, there will be a future in football or perhaps in the sciences of exercise, but one thing is for sure, no matter where he ends up, he started right here at Wilson Field.