• John Macon Gillespie

Lee, Columbia Facing Biggest Challenge of Young Season on Friday

Pictured: Justin Lee(#23) | Photo courtesy of Amy Lee

Junior defensive end Justin Lee, as well as the rest of his defensive teammates, have been all over opposing quarterbacks this season.

In fact, the Columbia Wildcats are off to a 4-0 start this season and there are few things they haven’t done well so far.

For instance, the offense is averaging over 400 yards per game on the ground and have outscored opponents 182-55. They have scored 40, 49, 58 and 35 points, respectively, and even pitched a shutout against Perry Central just last Friday night.

“Coach always tells us to build on upon our last game,” Lee told SES Mississippi. “Each week I try to be a better football player and help my team as much as I can.”

“It’s very exciting to see the hard work my brothers and I have put in come together on the field on Friday nights.”

In addition to Perry Central, the Wildcats have also earned wins over rival East Marion, North Forrest and Richton this season. But this Friday they face their biggest test yet in the the defending 2A state champs.

Columbia will go on the road to face Taylorsville, who is currently riding a 14-game winning streak. Of course the Tartars are led by one of the state’s best signal callers in Ty Keyes, but their defense has allowed just 12 points or less in two of their four games this season.

Getting to Keyes and preventing him from making big plays could well be the x-factor for Lee and the Wildcats tomorrow night. But not getting too high or low is the key, Lee insists.

“We know that Taylorsville is a great team. We are going to have to stay level and focused to execute our game plan,” He explained.

Though he’s a junior that has more than a year of high school football still in front of him, Lee is an experienced player. This is his third season to contribute with the Wildcats’ varsity team. It’s easy to see that when you watch him play, because of his efficiency in getting to the quarterback - a science he has obviously mastered.

Perhaps what makes him the player he is on the field, and the person he is away from it, could be boiled down to three key influences.

When asked what sets him a part as a football player, Lee responded “effort.”

“That is one of the many life lessons my parents have taught me. They always say ‘effort, not ability, determines success.’,” Lee said.

That is something he has applied to his pursuits in life, namely making a good score on the ACT, striving to get into a good surgical tech program and eventually getting his degree.

Two of his athletic heroes? Well one is retired NFL star Ray Lewis and the other is retired NBA star Kobe Bryant.

“To me they both are examples of how to find a way to win no matter what,” He noted. “Kobe Bryant because he has the sheer will to win and Ray Lewis because of his passion for the game.”

#JohnLukeMcCord #Columbia

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