July 24, 2012 11:27:44 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Tyson Lee never allowed the word no to stop him from doing something.
So the former Columbus High School, Itawamba Community College, and Mississippi State University standout wasn't going to allow a question to prevent him from chasing a dream.
Instead of wondering what if, Lee remembered the words of Talisha Lee, a former sprinter with the MSU women's track and field team, and thought why not and decided to give football another try.
The choice proved to be the right one.
Even though Lee didn't land a job as a professional football player after working out earlier this year at MSU's Pro Day and after attending two Canadian Football League tryouts, another door opened and led Lee to an opportunity in professional football.
Today, the former Falcon, Indian, and Bulldog is living in Missouri and is a scouting assistant for the NFL's St. Louis Rams.
"It has been awesome," Lee said Tuesday. "It has been a big adjustment being away from my family, but the city is nice. It is a little bigger (than Columbus and Starkville). The people I have met have been great."
At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Lee started 20 games in two seasons at MSU. He completed 58.8 percent of his passes in 2008 and in 2009, and threw for 11 touchdowns and 2,963 yards. After taking time away from football to work on his master's degree at MSU and to work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Lee realized the Lord was telling him to give football another shot. He listened and spent the last few months of 2011 and the first part of 2012 getting in shape for MSU's Pro Day, a showcase professional coaches and scouts use to evaluate college prospects. Lee never had attended a Pro Day and believed a strong showing in Starkville could help him attract attention and, possibly, earn him an invitation to a team's training camp.
Lee fared well, and while his performance caught the eye of Taylor Morton, who at the time was a scout for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, it didn't lead to an opportunity as a player. Instead, Morton, who had scouted MSU for three years and knew Lee, pulled Lee aside after the workout and asked him if he would be interested in a job working in the front office of a NFL team.
Lee filed that discussion away and remained focused on trying to find a job as a professional football player. He attended a tryout for the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos in Memphis, Tenn., and for the British Columbia Lions in Atlanta. Lee felt he fared better at the first tryout than the second, but he came to realize he wasn't on the right path. This time, Lee said the Lord was telling him a job as a football player wasn't for him. At that point, he said he felt at peace if he didn't get a chance to play in the NFL or in the CFL.
But when one door closed, another opened.
By then, Morton, who began his coaching career at the University of Southern Mississippi and also coached at Hinds C.C. and Pearl River C.C., had taken a job as director/college scouting for the Rams. Morton liked what he had seen in Lee and heard glowing reports from Jeff Terrill, who coached Lee at ICC, and reached out to him to see if he was still interested in a job in the NFL.
"He is a very high character guy who came highly recommended," Morton said. "(Coach Terrill) told me he was the highest character guy he coached in 30-something years of coaching. That meant a lot to me."
Morton talked with Lee and invited him to St. Louis to see what he thought of a job as a scouting assistant. As one part of an 18-person department filled with scouts and player personnel officials, Lee would be responsible for breaking down tapes of professional prospects and working with prospects behind the scenes and at tryouts.
It didn't take long for Lee to realize he liked the possibilities.
"The Lord just opened up the door," Lee said. "I felt there was something else I should be doing and I just prayed on it. One thing led to another. (Morton) asked me if I was interested in coming up (to St. Louis) and giving it a shot, and I definitely was."
Morton, who started his career in professional sports as an athletic trainer, said it took him time working as a coach before he found his niche as a scout. He said Lee has impressed in a short amount of time and now has to work to find out how he best fits in with the team and where his skills will take him. He feels Lee's intangibles will be a valuable asset to the Rams.
"The No. 1 one thing we want, and it is the same thing we want in a player, is someone who is accountable, someone we can trust, and someone who is going to work hard and is a good person," Morton said. "That's what we're trying to start a foundation with in our scouting department."
Looking back, Lee never imagined he would end up in St. Louis. Although he said he always tries to look at the big picture, the twists and turns in the past six months have surprised him. Through it all, Lee remained true to his faith and listened to the Lord and followed the path that fell into place in front of him.
"I felt like I wanted to be somewhere and learn a lot," Lee said. "I had been to school and I wanted to get out there and learn as much as possible in the field. ... I feel like right now I am where I am supposed to be. One thing I have seen is the Lord directs us in the way we want to go. I see this is the first step to many. I don't know if it means (his future will be in) scouting or coaching or administration, but, hopefully, it will open up some doors in the future and, more than anything, that I will have an impact on the people I am working with."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.