Kansas football top 25 difference-makers: No. 7, S Mike Lee
Running backs coach Tony Hull does a nice job of convincing recruits from his home state of Louisiana to visit Kansas so that they can get a feel for the program, the campus, the general vibe.
Next to Hull, Mike Lee, like Hull a native of Louisiana, qualifies as the best Louisiana recruiter in the program.
“It’s fun and it’s quiet,” Lee said of what he likes about Kansas. “In New Orleans it’s really loud and a lot of violence going on. In Kansas there really isn’t violence. I can see a lot of players from Louisiana coming to Kansas. They’re really looking forward to coming to Kansas because of what I did in my freshman year. It makes them want to experience what I did.”
What Lee did was earn freshman All-American honors from Rivals after playing in 11 games and starting the final eight at safety. He made some of the most memorable hits of the season and had the biggest play of the season with his pivotal interception in the program’s first victory against Texas since 1938.
And he did all that when he was supposed to be a senior in high school. Originally part of the Class of 2017, he reclassified in time to join the program and become a big part of it as the youngest player on the team.
He relied more on speed and toughness than on anything else last season.
“As a freshman I didn’t really know all the calls,” Lee said. “I was just playing football. Now I know everything about what I need to learn, what I need to do, who I need to watch, stuff like that.”
As a tackler last season, Lee was like a hitter swinging for the fences on every pitch, regardless of the score, the count, the outs and the inning. He didn’t just want to stop the play. He wanted to make it hurt. He still aims to do that, but said he now puts a higher premium on making the tackle.
He explained the difference in approaches.
“It’s just the energy I bring to the ball,” Lee said. “Like if I’m going to make a tackle I would never slow down. Now I settle my feet down and make some solid tackles. I’ve been working on that in the fall, just break it down, make a solid tackle. Every tackle can’t be a hard hit. If I can get you, I’m going to get you. If I can’t, I’m still going to get you down. If I just run full speed to the ball they can cross my face, make a play and score a touchdown.”
David Beaty has harped on Lee cutting down on missed tackles and the message appears to have sunk in.
“It makes me feel real different because I know everything I need to know and I can put myself in the right positions,” Lee said. “Last year I didn’t really know what I was doing. Now I know what I’m doing.”