IRVING, Texas –There is so much to like about Sean Lee. The third-year Dallas linebacker has impressed almost from the day he arrived at Valley Ranch from Penn State after the 2010 draft, when he was taken in the second round by the Cowboys.
Lee has come to define himself with a relentless work ethic, laid back demeanor when dealing with the media and off the field and a true nose for getting to the ball and making a big play. In short, he’s kind of a throwback player-someone who isn’t real big on flash and pizzazz, just a guy who comes to practice every day, does what he needs to do by keeping his head down and doing all he can to help improve both himself and his team. He then lets his play on the field do all the talking.
It’s definitely an approach that has worked. After logging 32 tackles as a rookie in 2010, he led America’s Team in stops last season with 104 and through two games in 2012, he already has 26 tackles. He made national headlines during Sunday’s 27-7 loss at Seattle, not for the countless tackles he had against the Seahawks, but for being on the business end of a teeth-rattling hit by Seattle’s Golden Tate in the second half, one he was not flagged for but one that did earn him a $21,000 fine for hitting a defenseless player earlier this week.
But true to form, Lee, who also is a guy who epitomizes toughness and doing whatever it takes to help his team, was back on the field just a few plays later. After practice on Wednesday, the former Penn State linebacker said he feels fine and is ready to move on from the whole situation as he and his teammates prepare for a Sunday visit from Tampa Bay.
“I feel fantastic. I was back a couple of plays later, probably could have played the next play. Doctors had to go through a process though to make sure I didn’t have a concussion, which I didn’t,” he said. “Of course, he’s trying to extend the play. I don’t blame him for blocking me. That’s part of football. The only issue I had a little bit was him celebrating like he did, but then again that’s part of football too. I’m ready to move on.”
Another thing that strikes everyone who has watched him play or seen him handle the crush of Dallas media during the week and after games is how at ease and carefree he is about the entire process. It’s not hard to tell that Lee is the epitome of someone who is truly doing what he loves in life and loves every minute of the experience. That strong passion for the game is something else that has helped endear him to Cowboy fans in a very short time.
“I have a passion for the game. I love playing football. The great middle linebackers that I want to emulate, that I’m trying to get to that level are the guys that play with an unbelievable passion, are extremely active and find a way to get to the football no matter what and want to be on the field no matter what. That’s something I really try to pride myself on,” he said. “I don’t see myself as a great linebacker, but I’m trying to work and emulate guys who are great and I think that’s a big deal for them.”
Lee might not consider himself a great linebacker, at least not yet, but there are definitely guys currently in the league who have reached such a strata that he not only enjoys watching, but also likes to try and emulate in everything he does.
“Ray Lewis is a guy who has been doing it for so long, who is an unbelievable guy, plays with passion, leads with passion who is a Hall of Famer, one of the best linebackers of all time. Brian Urlacher’s another guy who is unbelievable, guy who plays with passion. I could go through every team and find a lot of guys who are great linebackers in this league. I look at the guys from San Francisco who are unbelievable too,” he said. “I’ve got a ton of respect for the guys around this league and it’s always fun to watch a linebacker who plays with passion and plays really well. That’s something that excites me and I try to emulate.”
Since he grew up in Pennsylvania and as a Penn State fan, it also wasn’t surprising to hear him say that former PSU and Steelers linebacker Jack Ham, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was someone else he idolized.
But he also is fully aware of the history of the position with the Cowboys, guys like former standouts Chuck Howley and Lee Roy Jordan plus current perennial All-Pro DeMarcus Ware and carrying on that tradition of great Dallas linebackers is definitely something he takes immense pride in doing.
“The history that they have here [at linebacker], you look at all the unbelievable players here, that tradition is something you want to uphold and something I think all the linebackers take pride in,” Lee said.