Marqise Lee has been electrifying Trojan fans (and confounding Trojan opponents) since he stepped foot onto Troy’s gridiron in 2011. Now just a sophomore, Lee is poised to etch his name amongst the most hallowed and revered of USC wide receivers.
Nearly every time Lee connects with a Barkley thrown ball, he breaks for more yards than seems plausible. In fact, he averaged 19.7 yards per catch in USC’s 2012 season opener versus Hawaii.
Of course he had that amazing 75 yard TD catch on the first play of the game and the 100 yard kick off return to help that average.
It is hard to imagine that just two years ago, Lee was a player who was recruited by nearly every school as a safety or just as the catch-all “athlete,” is catching the eye of the national media and being included in the Heisman discussion alongside his teammate QB Matt Barkley.
Lee is 6’0", 195 lbs., a true sophomore and a native of Los Angeles. He’s already being compared to USC greats like Keyshawn Johnson and Lynn Swann.
Oh, and by the way, Robert Woods and Lee played on the same high school football team. Talk about an embarrassment of riches in your own backyard.
Marqise Lee earned the starting WR role as a freshman in 2011 and went on to have an all-star season.
Lee started eight games in 2011 (all but Syracuse, Arizona, Notre Dame and Oregon), but appeared in all 12 games.
He had 73 catches for 1,143 yards with a 15.7 yards per catch average. He had 11 TDs and five catches for 33 yards. His 10 kickoff returns totalled 285 yards with one touchdown.
As a freshman, Lee was 15th nationally in receiving yards with 95.3. His 11 touchdowns were the most in the entire country by a freshman in 2011. Ten of those 11 touchdowns were for at least 24 yards.
In 2011, Lee’s 73 receptions were seventh on the USC season pass catching list. Those 73 receptions made him the second most prolific freshman receiver in USC history, second only behind Mike Williams’ 81 catches in 2002.
Lee had four 100-yard receiving games in 2011. Alongside high school and USC teammate Robert Woods, they each had at least 1,000 receiving yards in 2011, the fourth time that a pair of Trojans did that. Lee's and Woods' combined receptions (184) and receiving yards (2,435) in 2011 were the most by a pair of Trojans in a season.
The Lee bandwagon started to gain momentum outside of Troy late last season when the Trojans faced off against Oregon at Autzen. That night, Lee caught eight balls for 187 yards, one touchdown and 325 all-purpose yards against the Duck defense. That win snapped Oregon's 21 game home winning streak.
In the Trojans’ 50-0 rout of UCLA (that will NEVER get old. NEVER.) Lee had 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
Lee’s accolades in 2011 were numerous. He made the first-team for the 2011 Football Writers, Sporting News, CBSSports.com, CollegeFootballNews.com, FoxSportsNext.com, YahooSports.com and Phil Steele Freshman All-American.
Lee was named the 2011 Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Co-Player of the Year. He also made the All-Pac-12 second team. He was the 2011 CollegeFootballNews.com Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and CBSSports.com Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year. He made 2011 SI.com All-American honorable mention. He made the 2011 Phil Steele All-Pac-12 second team.
And that was just his freshman year.
Marqise Lee graduated from Gardena’s private Junipero Serra High School knowing he was headed to USC. However, his future wasn’t always that certain or assured. As a kid, Lee bounced around the foster system for awhile, seeing and experiencing a side of life that most children never have to see.
In 2006, one of Lee’s older half-brother was shot and killed in a gang-related incident. That was the last straw for Lee, the third death closest to him, the one that threatened to throw him off track because it was the one he never saw coming.
When Lee’s great grandmother and grandfather passed away, sure it was sad, but you expect your grandparents to die when you are relatively young. You don’t expect your 18 year old brother to be gunned down suddenly and senselessly.
In the OC Register, Lee was quoted as saying “I just didn’t care anymore. I was ditching school a lot. I didn’t really care about things.”
Seven years ago, if we had asked Marqise Lee where he’d be today, it’s doubtful he’d have imagined he would be in the early discussions for the 2012 Heisman Memorial Trophy. He had been shuffled from one foster home to another—separated from his siblings since that day when he was six or seven years old and they were taken from their mother. He didn’t know why.
Lee bounced from foster families to friends’ houses to hotels. All while staying in school and staying committed to football (as well as other sports).
One of Lee’s older half-brother is dead, as I mentioned. The other is in jail. Despite this background, this history, Lee stayed focused, stayed in school. He shook off the bad influences surrounding him, knowing that his goal was to go to college, to have a chance to play sports professionally.
Since his sophomore year in high school Lee has lived with the parents of a friend from a travel basketball team. Sheila Nero and Steve Hester made room in their Inglewood home for this young man with so much promise and so little good influence in his life.
Nero and Hester helped Lee stay focused on school and sports, and Lee excelled in football, track and basketball. Lee found the family he lost, and through their guidance, has been able to realize the first part of his dreams.
Last year, Marqise Lee qualified for the NCAA Championships in the long jump. He finished 7th with a leap of 25 feet, 5 ½ inches during the preliminary rounds in Austin, Texas. Overall, he placed 17th at the NCAA Championship long jump finals in Des Moines, Iowa this past June.
Minnesota: 2 catches for 34 yards
Utah: 8-yard run off a reverse
Syracuse: 4 catches for 50 yards with a 24-yard touchdown
Arizona State: 8-yard run on a reverse
Arizona: 8 catches for 144 yards including a 38 yard touchdown and a 26-yard kickoff return. Lee and Woods’ combined 399 combined receiving yards were the most in one game by any USC tandem ever.
California: 4 catches for 81 yards including a 39-yard touchdown. He left the game with a shoulder injury
Notre Dame: 2 catches for 36 yards
Stanford: 7 receptions for 94 yards with a 28-yard touchdown
Colorado: 9 catches for 124 yards with a 33-yard touchdown and a 25-yard touchdown as well as a 13-yard run and a 14-yard kickoff return.
Washington: 9 receptions for 74 yards, with a 9-yard touchdown, and an 88-yard touchdown kickoff
Oregon: 325 all-purpose yards, 8 catches for 187 yards, a 59-yard touchdown, 6 kickoff returns for 134 yards and a 4 yard run.
UCLA: 13 catches for 224 yards, a 42-yard touchdown, a 52-yard touchdown and a 23-yard kickoff return
Hawaii:197 yards on 10 catches, a touchdown and a breathtaking 100-yard kickoff return.
My dear friend and season ticket partner and I are desperately trying to make this happen. So, the next time you’re at the Coliseum and the announcer says “Marqise Lee,” answer with Marqiiiiiiiise LEE!