Know your role: Lowndes running back playing bigger than measurements

Gerald Thomas | Special to the TimesLowndes High School running back Justin Lee carries the ball during the Viking's first game against Archer High. 

VALDOSTA—Lowndes senior running back Justin Lee can go overlooked due to his small stature.

But the 17-yearold from Valdosta, Georgia plays an important role at his position, being paired in a rushing duo with dual-threat quarterback Jacurri Brown.

Through the Viking’s first four games, the five-foot-eight, 170 pounds running back has rushed for 295 yards and five touchdowns.

Lee got his competitiveness from being around the game since his youth and having his siblings push him.

“I came up playing for the Titletown All-Stars with coach (J.B.) Brown,” the running back said at practice. “My brother played at Lowndes and graduated with the class of 2018. Me and my siblings were always competitive when we were young. That got me pretty good because my big brothers would always push me because they saw it in me.”

Lee’s brother, JD Lee, played for the Vikings and graduated in 2018.

The elder Lee committed to Albany State to play football after rushing for 439 yards and 12 touchdowns. He accompanied Travis Tisdale and Michael Barrett in the backfield, helping the Vikings set the program record for points in a season with 627—scoring more than 50 points nine times during the 2017 season.

Lee wanted to emulate his older brother’s success and knew he wanted to be a Viking from a young age.

“When he was getting older and playing high school, I would come out here and watch them to try to do some of the things they did,” Lee said. “That’s how I ended up here.”

He looks to football as therapy as the physicality of the game brings him joy.

“Football is a beautiful sport to me,” Lee said. “I love the fact that you can just come out here and physically abuse somebody for an hour and a half and not get in trouble for it. Legal contact is what we call it.”

In the Vikings’ 37-17 win against Oakleaf on Sept. 18, Lee got his season high for rushing yards and touchdowns thus far, rumbling for 97 yards and three touchdowns.

Head Coach Jamey DuBose credits Lee’s size on how he plays with a certain aggression paired with his field vision.

“He plays a lot bigger than what he is with a chip on his shoulder,” DuBose said. He has great vision when running the football and has a lot of power and has overdone what I was expecting of him. I’m really impressed with him so far.”

In the midst of his senior year, Lee committed to Division II’s Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio a day after their first game of the season against Archer.

What drew Lee to Notre Dame was the success of their junior running back Jaleel McLaughlin, who has rushed 2,316 yards and 30 touchdowns for the Falcons.

“They have a good running back program and I hope to set another record at their school because their running backs have set conference records in the last four seasons,” the Notre Dame College commit said.

As a senior, Lee has championship aspirations and wants his team to remain a family while also trying to get more collegiate looks before he graduates in the spring of 2021.

“My first goal is to always win a state championship,” Lee said. “We have a great family bond right now, so we need to stay together as a team. I’m committed right now but hopefully some bigger things come along.”

The game of football has taught Lee the art of playing your role and being accountable for your actions.

“The best thing you can do is your job when you’re apart of a team,” the senior said. “Everyone has a job and role on the team and as long as you’re doing your part to your best ability, that’s all you’re accountable for.”

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