Sophomore safety Mike Lee wasn’t drafted first. Nor was he drafted second, third, fourth or fifth.
In Kansas football’s spring game draft, Team KU’s coach Kenny Perry selected the All-Big 12 safety with the sixth pick.
Lee, a New Orleans native, immediately texted Team Jayhawks’ coach Tony Hull, a fellow New Orleans-native, after he was drafted.
“He texted me while the draft was going on and was like, ‘Coach, you didn't pick me. You're going to pay for it,’” Hull said. “And every day he's been giving me a hard time, telling me I was going to pay for it.”
Lee held up his end of the bargain. He did his best to make Hull and Team Jayhawks pay.
Even though Hull’s Team Jayhawks walked away victorious, Lee made sure his presence was known and had six tackles on the day. That mark led both squads.
But Lee didn't just make tackles — he crushed his fellow teammates. Although it was the spring game, he went full speed.
“Boy, he's sure fun to watch out there,” coach David Beaty said. " Unless you're the guy getting hit."
Of his six recorded tackles on the day, Lee lit up junior wide receiver Ryan Schadler twice.
On one play, Schadler had his hands on the ball, ready to make a catch. But by the time Lee came charging in, the ball flew out of Schadler’s hands and Schadler dropped to the ground so hard there was an audible thud.
Mike Lee killed a fellow teammate in today's KU Football spring game pic.twitter.com/N395IwMeQu— Jayhawk Video (@JayhawkVideo) April 15, 2017
“Those two hits were rough,” Schadler said. "He comes down hard. He's one of the fastest guys I've ever seen fill a hole."
The intensity of Lee’s tackles resonated around the team.
“Every time I came to the sideline and walked off the field, I said to myself in my head, ‘I always have to know where Mike Lee’s at because I’m not trying to get killed,’” sophomore wide receiver Daylon Charlot said.
With all the impressive pad-smacking hits come a few missed opportunities for the young leader as well.
“One of the things that I did tell him is that, 'I want you to lead the conference in tackles, but I don't want you to lead the conference in missed tackles, as well,'” Beaty said. "I mean, he throws everything he's got, that 175-pound body at people, but we do have to learn to use more technique because I think it's going to culminate into a lot more tackles for him… He can be even better than he is, and he gets it. He understands it.”
On Team Jayhawks’ first drive of the second quarter, junior quarterback Peyton Bender aired out an 11-yard pass to junior wide receiver Steven Sims Jr.
Lee missed a tackle on that play, allowing Sims into the end zone.
“I know he wishes he would have had it back because that game them a touchdown there, and it was because he just went in out of control instead of using technique,” Beaty said.
Lee acknowledged he went into that specific play too hot as well.
“I don’t like missing tackles,” Lee said of that play. “I was coming on too fast. He’s a good wide receiver. He makes great cuts.”
Lee made one blatant error in the spring game, but his positive, highlight-reel tackles, outshined the negatives.
After today, does Hull regret not drafting his fellow Louisiana product? He wouldn't say for sure.
“Well,” Hull said, “he did some good things today.”
— Edited by Paola Alor