July 12, 2011
This is the first in a series of "Where Are They Now" features that will appear on WyomingAthletics.com throughout the coming year. We hope Wyoming fans will enjoy reading about where some of the great Cowboys and Cowgirls of the past are today, and what their memories are of their days playing for the Brown and Gold.
We begin this series with one of the finest football players and student-athletes in University of Wyoming history -- Brian Lee.
A native of Arvada, Colo., Lee remains the only football player in 114 seasons of Cowboy Football to earn both Consensus All-America honors and First Team Academic All-America honors in the same season. He accomplished that rarest of honors in his senior season of 1997, when he also earned First Team All-America honors from Associated Press, the Football Writers Association of America, the Walter Camp Football Foundation and Football News.
From 1994-97, Lee set new University of Wyoming career, single-season and single-game interception records as a safety. He concluded his career with 17 interceptions. As a junior in 1996, he intercepted eight passes to rank No. 2 in the nation in interceptions. In his senior season of 1997, he again intercepted eight passes, which ranked him No. 1 in the NCAA that season. Lee and his fellow Cowboy defenders set a new school record in `97 by intercepting a combined 24 passes as a team. The UW secondary also ranked No. 6 in the NCAA in pass defense in 1997.
Lee is one of three individuals tied for the UW single-game interception record of three interceptions in a game. He is the only Cowboy to intercept three passes in a single game on two different occasions -- versus SMU in 1996 and Montana in 1997. The other two individuals to intercept three passes in a single game are: Selmer Pederson (vs. Denver in 1950) and Shamiel Gary (vs. Weber State in 2009).
Lee was a four-year letterman (1994-97) and a three-year starter for the Cowboys in 1995, `96 and `97. He was a leader on Wyoming's outstanding 1996 team that concluded the season ranked No. 22 in both the final Associated Press Media Poll and USA Today Coaches' Poll. That team held the nation's longest winning streak at 11 games, and also earned a berth in the inaugural Western Athletic Conference Championship Game. Lee may best be remembered for intercepting a pass against Colorado State in `96 to seal one of the greatest victories in the history of "The Border War" series for the Cowboys.
He received his bachelor's degree in business management from UW in 1997. At the conclusion of his college playing career, Lee signed a free-agent contract with the New England Patriots and went to training camp with the Patriots in 1998. He was inducted into the University of Wyoming Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.
Your final season playing football at Wyoming was in 1997. What have you been doing since your college career ended?
Brian Lee: I currently live in Littleton, Colo., with my wife, Heather, and our 10-month old daughter, Killian. I have spent the past four years teaching math to middle school students. I teach at Ken Caryl Middle School in Littleton. Prior to that, I was in banking. When not with my family, I like to snowboard, play hockey and play golf.
Do you have a favorite memory or memories from your playing days at Wyoming?
Brian Lee: Many of my favorite memories came from just hanging out with my friends and teammates. Whether it was in the dorms, at a house, in the locker room or on a plane, the friendships built are what I will always remember. I also will never forget intercepting a pass in the final few minutes against CSU to help us win the game, and then learning an hour later that we were heading to the WAC Championship.
The 1996 season was one of the greatest in Wyoming history. Your team that season ended the year ranked No. 22 in the national polls and owned the nation's longest winning streak. What was it like to be part of that season and that team?
Brian Lee: The 1996 season was definitely a special one. We had a great group of guys that played their hearts out for a group of Seniors that was full of leaders. It also didn't hurt to have such an explosive offense. No matter how many points we were down, the team knew we always had a chance.
You are the only Cowboy football player to ever earn Consensus All-America honors and First Team Academic All-America honors in the same season. How were you able to achieve at such a high level on and off the field?
Brian Lee: I don't feel I did anything different than my teammates. I went to practice when it was time to practice, meetings when it was time to meet and class when it was time to go to class. I do believe the structure that football gave me helped me stay on the path for success. Football taught me discipline and time management skills, while at the same time, keeping me out of trouble.
You hold University of Wyoming records for most career interceptions (17), most interceptions in a single season (8 in both 1996 and 1997) and are tied for the school record for most interceptions in a single game (3 vs. SMU in `96 and 3 vs. Montana in `97). What do you attribute your ability to intercept so many passes during your career? What were some of the things you keyed on as a defensive back to be able to record so many interceptions?
Brian Lee: I do know that I was not the fastest or strongest defensive back that has played for the University of Wyoming, so I would have to attribute the number of interceptions to the following: 1. Knowing the game situation and also knowing opponent tendencies; 2. Feeling the flow of the play and the run/pass read; 3. Reading the quarterback's eyes.
During your years playing free safety at Wyoming, you practiced against one of the greatest receivers in NCAA history in your teammate Marcus Harris. What was it like to face such a great receiver like that day after day in practice? What do you believe made Marcus such a difficult receiver to defend?
Brian Lee: Thankfully, I didn't have to cover Marcus too often by myself. When I did, I gave him a large cushion. I would rather give up a five-yard pass than a 50-yard touchdown. There were many characteristics that made Marcus such a hard receiver to defend -- one of them being the calm and unselfish demeanor that Marcus had. By looking at his actions on and off the field, you would never know he had obtained all the accolades he did. He also had deceptive speed, he could jump out of a gym and he had great hands. You probably already knew the last one.
You were fortunate to play for some great coaches at the University of Wyoming. What do you remember about some of those coaches who recruited you to Wyoming and coached you as a Cowboy?
Brian Lee: All of the coaches that I played under helped me become a better player and person. I would have to first thank Coach (Joe) Tiller who saw potential in me, when many other coaches and schools did not. Coach (Tim) Burke and Coach (Brock) Spack, the coaches that moved me from running back to defensive back. I would also like to thank Mark Stoops for putting me in the middle of the field and just letting me play.
You were inducted into the University of Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008, along with one of your teammates, offensive tackle Steve Scifres. What does that honor mean to you?
Brian Lee: Being inducted into the University of Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame was the greatest honor I have received. To be put alongside some of the other great players and people throughout the school's history is a great honor. To be inducted with a teammate, such as Steve Scifres, makes it even more special. Steve was not only a great player, but he is a great person.
Have you been able to stay in touch with some of your teammates through the years?
Brian Lee: I have stayed in touch with a few of my teammates. Thanks to technology, it is easier than in the past. Although I haven't made it back to Laramie the past few years, a few of us have made it a tradition to get together and go fishing for a few days.
Do you still follow Wyoming Football?
Brian Lee: I always follow Wyoming Football and make it back to Laramie when possible. It is great to come back and see all the improvements in the facilities. It is also nice to see all the familiar faces and places that were such a big part of my life.
Have you stayed involved in the game of football in anyway?
Brian Lee: I coached for a couple of years with my brother, David, but don't any more. My main involvement with football nowadays is as a spectator, but that is OK. I still get a rush the first Saturday that college football kicks off.