Ex-Buccaneer has hopes of playing on Sundays
A former Blue Earth Area Buccaneer football standout is currently vying for an opportunity to play in the NFL.
Sam Lee, a 2012 BEA graduate, and the son of Dr. William Lee and Donna Nawrocki, recently participated in two NFL rookie mini camps. The first camp was with the Minnesota Vikings, while the second one was with the Los Angeles Rams, which took place from May 11-13. During both camp sessions, the pro football hopeful participated in lineman drills, and also sat in on team meetings to go over the specifics of playing along the offensive line.
The 6-foot-4, 307 pounder is an undrafted free agent who recently completed his college career at Division II Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. While at Augustana, Lee enjoyed a distinguished career as a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference first team selection, and was chosen as a second team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association.
Despite his success in the collegiate ranks, Lee understands the long odds he faces in trying to earn an NFL roster spot this fall. Nonetheless, he maintains a positive attitude throughout the process.
“I know it’s extremely tough, but I am going to attack it head on, that is my mentality,” Lee says. “I’m going to give it everything I’ve got and hopefully it happens for me.”
While at the Minnesota Vikings camp, Lee ran into his former college teammate and current Vikings fullback, C.J. Ham. In 2016 as an undrafted free agent himself, Ham became just the fifth player ever to sign with an NFL team from Augustana University.
As Lee explains, Ham’s story of beating the odds to carve out an NFL career provides the former Blue Earth Area Buc with great inspiration.
“He’s given me the blue print to accomplish what I am trying to do now,” Lee states. “He is living proof that making it to the NFL from our school is possible. It was great catching up with him at camp.”
In addition to his former college teammate, Lee’s two older brothers, Jake and Nick, have also served as gridiron mentors. While in high school, the trio of football playing siblings all donned the maroon and gold colors of the Buccaneers before heading to Augustana.
In particular, middle brother Nick, who played tight end at Augustana, went on to secure a try out with the Vikings following his senior season of college in 2014. According to Sam Lee, Nick is the best athlete of the trio and was able to share his insight on what to expect during rookie mini-camp.
“He was a big help in preparing me for this process,” Lee shared. “Nick told me that they throw a lot at you at the meetings, but just have fun with it because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
In competing for a roster spot among the best athletes in the world, Lee says the speed of the game is the biggest difference from college to the pros. Adjusting to the accelerated pace of the NFL has been an eye-opening experience for the former Buccaneer.
One of Lee’s most memorable mini-camp experiences came from his time spent with Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano. As an NFL head coach in 2008, Sparano helped lead the Miami Dolphins to a 11-5 record and the AFC East division crown.
“He’s a very smart guy, so when I was in the meeting room with him, I just tried to soak it all in,” Lee shares. “It was very enlightening to hear about what he does and the system that he runs.”
Now living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the 23-year old Lee earned bachelor degrees in exercise science and fitness management back in December.
Knowing his football playing days will not last forever, Lee plans on eventually becoming a strength and conditioning coach, or a football coach. Regardless of his career path, staying closely involved with the game of football is Lee’s number one priority.
“I’ve been into football ever since I can remember. I’ve learned so many life lessons from the sport and I would like to pass that onto others,” he adds.