ONLINE EXCLUSIVE BY ADAM ROGAN
Before even committing to Drake University, Josh Lee wanted to be a part of its football team. A native of Decorah, Iowa, Lee was interested in majoring in Drake’s computer science program. He’d kicked in high school, but the Bulldogs weren’t looking to bring Lee onto the squad. Well, not at first.
“The guy came in, we didn’t really recruit him,” head coach Rick Fox said. “He said, ‘I’m coming to Drake, I’ll be a manager, just give me a chance in the spring of my freshman year.’”
And that’s just what happened. After being a team manager in fall of 2013, he got to tryout. As a sophomore, he was on the squad. By the next season, he was starting. It wasn’t the best rookie season, however. He finished below 60-percent on field goals, missing seven of his 17 attempts.
Now as a senior, he’s a near perfect 7-for-8 while also taking over the punting job. On extra points, he’s 34-for-34, the only player in the Pioneer Football League who is still 100 percent on PATs.
“Each year the guy has just gotten better and better and better,” Fox said. “Man, I hope he’s an all-conference kicker.”
Putting points on the board, although still a goal, is far from why Lee enjoys being on the team.
“The support of all my other teammates and everybody and being with them and having them support me and everything: that’s kind of how I got here today,” he said.
Over the past three years on the team, Lee said that he doesn’t have a favorite moment. No one experience has stood above the rest in his eyes.
“Definitely just hanging out with the guys is what I’m going to miss,” Lee said. “That’s the funnest (sic) part.”
Still, even if camaraderie is the best part of being a Bulldog for Lee, that doesn’t stop him from wanting to become the best kicker he can.
When most of his teammates wait out halftime in the locker room, Lee stays on the field practicing. During halftime at Drake Stadium, kids will be brought out onto the field for a punt, pass and kick competition. Lee’s punts would clear the total distance of the kids’ just about every time. Four years ago, that may not have been the case.
“It’s all the little things,” Fox said. “What we talk about with the kickers and punters: you’ve got to be smooth. You can’t try to force it … If you looked at him as a freshman kicker and you looked at him now, (you would see) how much smoother he is in his delivery … He’s worked very hard at that and he has become a very, very consistent kicker and punter.”
Now, Lee only has one game left in a Drake uniform: today’s matchup with Stetson University in Florida. He’ll graduate in spring.
His post-grad career looks promising. He already has a job lined up with IBM to work on the Watson project, the supercomputer that — among other aptitudes in health care and weather forecasting — became famous when it bested two champions on the Jeopardy! game show in 2011.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a young man,” Fox said, beaming. “The way he’s worked; he’s been patient, he’s been confident and he’s worked hard and he’s kept getting better and it’s been fun to see this year.”