Yes, we’re talking about the same guy who was an All-America wide receiver and Biletnikoff Award winner for USC a year ago, the same player who was expected to challenge the Trojans’ all-time pass catching records as a strong Heisman Trophy candidate this season.
Unfortunately, fate and injuries have dictated otherwise. Lee not only has been hobbled for much of the fall with a painful knee, he had to absorb the firing of a head coach who was closer to him than probably any other player. Put all that together, and most kids would be walking around campus in a deep funk.
But that’s what makes Lee so special. He’s been anything but depressed. His numbers might be down, but his spirits are always up. Even when he hasn’t been healthy enough to suit up, he’s been on the sidelines cheering his fellow players on and providing his experienced advice.
Nelson Agholor has been Cody Kessler’s go-to receiver much of the time, not Lee. It doesn’t seem to have frustrated last year’s All-American. Lee is always there huddling with Agholor, Darreus Rogers and the other wideouts when they come off the field. And when one makes a big catch or scores a touchdown, guess who the first player is to pat them on the helmet or wrap them in a bear hug?
Marqise Lee has been slowed by injuries this season, but that hasn't stopped him from inspiring his teammates.
The other night against Stanford, when Andre Heidari was standing on the sideline preparing to go out to attempt the biggest field goal of his life, it was Lee squeezing up next to him, putting his arm around him and offering words of encouragement.
Interim head coach Ed Orgeron has tried to be as careful as possible with Lee, nurturing him and his sore knee along, limiting his catches and trying to make sure he is available in the biggest games.
Lee re-injured himself against the Cardinal, suffering a deep shin bruise that forced him to hobble off the field. But just before the biggest play of the USC’s season, a fourth-and-2 at the Stanford 48 with the score tied 17-17 with two minutes left, everyone looked up and saw Lee.
He came limping courageously into the huddle, flanked out to the right and ran a quick slant. Kessler threw him a tight spiral which Lee clutched to his chest for the first down that set up Heidari’s eventual winning 47-yard field goal. Then Lee went limping off.
Nobody should have been surprised.
Lee is as selfless as he is athletically gifted. Maybe he couldn’t reach all his lofty goals this season, but in many ways he reached one nobody was expecting.
He became the ultimate USC teammate.
They’re only college football opinions, but at least they’re all mine:
The Maxwell Football Club released its semifinalists for national Coach of the Year, and only one Pac-12 name is on it -- you guessed it, Ed Orgeron. You can be sure Pat Haden noticed.
• Lots of red flags for USC’s trip to Colorado on Saturday. It’s a scary game against an improving team sandwiched between a wild, emotional victory over Stanford and the much-anticipated Nov. 30 crosstown match against you-know-who. Can the Trojans focus and not look too much ahead, or behind? Orgeron better hope so. His job status could depend on it.
• I’m surprised Arizona State is favored by 2 1/2 points over UCLA. I would have guessed it the other way around. I still think the Bruins have the edge at home.
• If Johnny Manziel has big games against LSU and Missouri, he has to be favored over Jameis Winston for the Heisman, doesn’t he? Shockingly, most voters apparently don’t think so. But this one sure does.
• Florida State is a whopping 57-point favorite against Idaho this week. Talk about Winston padding his Heisman stats.
• Baylor vs. Oklahoma State, huh? That’s sure a lot more interesting game that it appeared to be two months ago.
• That Auburn tipped-pass to beat Georgia with time running out easily qualifies as the college football play of the year.
• I’m not so sure that Stanford guard David Yankey, clearly the Pac-12’s lineman of the year, isn’t also the conference’s player of the year. The guy is that dominant. If he isn’t an NFL first-round draft choice, I’ve never seen one.
• Just wondering: Does UCLA’s new running back/linebacker star qualify for Frequent Flyer Myles?