He dropped back to pass in the spring game and threw a strike to a receiver in the corner of the end zone. It was one of three touchdown passes for former Jesuit Blue Jay Tanner Lee, who was named the starting quarterback at Nebraska.
In a testament to his popularity with his new teammates, many surrounded him in a post-game interview with the Big Ten network.
“I’ve played a lot of football,” said Lee. “It is all the same between the white lines.”
Lee’s story is one of persistence. He was sacked 42 times in his two seasons as the Tulane quarterback and hit many more times. He injured his shoulder twice. He suffered two broken fingers and a concussion against Georgia Tech in Tulane’s first game at the new Yulman Stadium.
And, in December 2015, when Tulane named Willie Fritz as the head coach of the Green Wave, Lee knew it was time to go. He was a pocket, pro-style passer.
Tulane was switching to an option offense, where the running abilities of the quarterback were emphasized.
Lee is not a runner, but he is a leader. The former Jesuit High standout was voted one of 10 offseason leaders in Nebraska’s workouts.
Each member of the team must be accountable to the leader for being on time for workouts and classes – and just being a solid citizen.
His parents, Kim and Phil, call their son’s journey to Nebraska “a dream come true.” That perfect strike in the corner of the end zone wasn’t unexpected.
“I have seen him make that throw so many times before,” said Kim.
“That was a big-boy throw to a really good receiver,” said Phil.
After receiving his release from Tulane, Lee visited LSU and Nebraska. His father had nothing but great things to say about Les Miles.
“Les had a spot for him,” said Phil Lee. “Les, who is a great man, left the door open for Tanner. But we thought Nebraska might be a better fit.”
So, the week after his LSU visit, Tanner Lee visited Lincoln and saw snow for the first time. Since he arrived on campus, Lee’s arrow has pointed up. He received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA and ran the scout team last fall. Lee, who had redshirted at Tulane, sat out for yet another season.
How did he handle it? Like a quarterback who experienced his share of turbulence.
“He handled it like a 22-year-old,” said Phil Lee. “He just goes to work every day.”
That work and an unwavering persistence has paid off.
Near the end of a phone interview, you could hear a beaming father on the other end of the line.
“Things always happen for a reason,” Phil said.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.