Steve Lee is easy to overlook off of the football field. Low key, calm and humble, the defensive lineman often goes about his business quietly and undetected.
But if you’re playing the Kentucky Warriors, you better not overlook Lee on the football field.
In his fifth season for the Warriors, Lee has recorded 45 tackles and a team-high four sacks in 2014. A team captain and Northern Frontier Football League All-Star, he’s certainly made his presence felt this season.
Though the Warriors’ team roster lists him at 6-foot-2-inches, 300 pounds, Lee relies on his speed to get around opposing lineman and get in the backfield.
“I’m more of a finesse guy,” Lee said.
Whether it’s a swim move, a shimy or a spin move, Lee has been practicing them for over a decade. In a league where many players find themselves playing a new position every week, Lee has been playing on the defensive line since his high school days at Ashland Paul Blazer High School in Kentucky.
“(A defensive lineman), that’s just always been me, for the most part,” Lee said. “I put on some weight in high school, and just went on out there.”
After helping lead the Tomcats to a 9-3 record and an appearance in the second round of the Kentucky AAA State Tournament his senior season, Lee attended Morehead State University. But after just a couple of seasons, he would leave to serve his country in the military.
Lee isn’t the only veteran on the Warriors’ roster. Receiver John Throckmorton is currently awaiting deployment to Afghanistan, and current Warriors Jon Hairston, Jeremy Maxie and Michael Weber have all served in the military. Like the rest of his veteran teammates, Lee returned home a more grounded and mature young man.
“It’s life changing. You see some realities that we take for granted,” he said. “I don’t take anything for granted anymore.”
Soon after returning to the Tri-State area, Lee hoped to continue his relationship with his first love: football. Flipping through the newspaper in 2009, he found his opportunity.
“I saw an article in the paper, and I just called a mutual friend I had with (team owner Ricky Witt),” he said. “I asked him about it an just came on out.”
Since joining the Warriors for the inaugural season 2009, Lee has been a staple on Kentucky’s defensive line. After five seasons with his teammates, he’s formed a bond with them that goes beyond the football field.
“Some of these guys are closer than my family,” he said. “We do everything together outside of football. Halloween parties, Christmas parties, birthdays, we’re always together.”
When he’s not in the opponent’s backfield, Lee waits tables at Fat Patty’s restaurant in Ashland, Kentucky. While it can be a frustrating job at times, it only fuels him on the gridiron.
“It’s a stress reliever. You can’t really tell the customers how you really feel,” he said. “I just come out on Saturday nights and let it all go.”
Alex Hider can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter