Former Maben player Lee credits start in football to high school coach
Donald Lee played at Mississippi State from 1999-2002. (Photo submitted by MSU)
By DANNY P. SMITH
Donald Lee may never have played the sport of football and definitely not at a high level if it had not been for the early guidance of his high school football coach in Maben.
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While Lee was in the 7th grade at Maben High School, he approached coach Kenny Williamson one day and had something specific on his mind.
"I asked him what do I need to do to play college football?" Lee said. "He told me if I continue to work hard and do exactly as he tells me that I would play college football one day and that stuck with me ever since."
Lee followed through with that plan.
It was a path that eventually led him to college at Mississippi State and what has turned out to be an eight-year career so far in the National Football League with the Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers.
Today, the Packers play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.
Lee will never forget Williamson for sharing his thoughts of what it takes to be successful on the football field and in life.
"I have to give credit to him because when I first came to Maben High, he was the first guy to take me under his wing," Lee said. "He taught me how to get in the three-point stance and just molded me into an all-around athlete."
Lee's thoughts on what could be in his football future were sparked by a conversation he overheard between Williamson and quarterback Patrick Burchfield.
"They were talking one day about where (Burchfield) might be going to college," Lee said. "That got me interested in going to school and pursuing my dreams."
While Williamson was working on a tractor in the fieldhouse, Lee felt it would be a good time to talk with his coach about his dreams.
Williamson knew Lee has potential and it was just a matter of him taking advantage of his opportunity.
"I said, 'son the first thing you've got to do is get your grades and it looks like God is going to bless you with a body to do the rest,'" Williamson said. "He's one of those exceptional kids."
Lee took Williamson's advice and worked hard in the class room to make sure his academics were in order.
Everything else, as Lee puts it, "is history."
Lee was listed as one of the top 20 players in the state of Mississippi by USA Today in its preseason edition. He was ranked 35th on recruiting analyst Kevin Henderson's list of the top players of Mississippi.
During his career with the Blue Devils, Lee caught 167 passes for 2,667 yards and 21 touchdowns, rushed 136 times for 1,087 yards and made 352 tackles with 15 sacks on defense. He saw time at linebacker, receiver and running back during his prep career.
Since the early high schoo days in Maben, the relationship between Williamson and Lee grew to more than one between just a player and coach.
Even with his busy schedule in the NFL, Williamson said Lee still makes it a priority to spend time with him.
"We've become just really good friends for a very long time and even before he played football at Mississippi State," Williamson said. "From 7th grade, all of the way through school, it's been a very long relationship."
Williamson is very proud of Lee and his accomplishments. It will difficult to find someone pulling harder for Lee in the Super Bowl than Williamson.
"He's a great kid and I still call him a kid," Williamson said. "Of course, he's a grown man now. He and I talk about twice a week. I usually talk with him after the games on Sunday and sometimes in the middle of the week to see how things are going for the next one. When he comes home, we're always hanging out together. We hunt and fish together. It's been a friendship and a side benefit to it all, he just happens to play with the Packers."