IRVING, Texas – Given his constant presence at the Cowboys' practice facility, it's a fair bet Sean Lee catches sight of a few of the team's pre-draft visitors this week.
NFL teams can host up to 30 draft prospects at their facility in the month leading up to the draft, and the Cowboys are expected to entertain their visitors this week. That just might jog a few memories for Lee, as he was a pre-draft visitor just six short years ago.
"It's fun. They come in, you get to see Dallas," Lee said last week. "You get to see the stadium, you get to meet the coaches. It's the first meeting with them and it's a lot of fun. They make it easy."
Lee's own story gives credence to the wider philosophy of pre-draft visits. Considering that the Cowboys pick No. 4 overall when the draft begins on April 28, there's understandably a fair amount of attention paid to the top prospects. But teams also use this time period to bring in lesser-known names and potential fits in the back half of the draft.
Lee fits that bill to some degree. Sure, he was an all-conference linebacker at Penn State, but major injuries hampered his draft stock a bit – just enough that the Cowboys snagged him at No. 55 overall when they executed a trade with the Eagles to acquire him.
"I knew teams may like me, but they're going to look at my knee and they could take me off their board or maybe they weren't willing to take a risk on me," Lee said. "That's why I owe so much to the Joneses and the Cowboys because they were willing to take the risk on me."
It's been an arduous journey since that point. Lee has obviously had to cope with further injury issues since being drafted, including the torn ACL that derailed his entire 2014 season. Having recovered from that, though, he put together the most complete season of his career in 2015 and earned a Pro Bowl berth in the process.
It's a fitting twist, because long before he ever represented the Cowboys in the Pro Bowl, Lee watched game tape of Pro Bowl-caliber linebackers. When he visited before the 2010 draft, Lee said he recalled the humbling experience of watching tape of Keith Brooking and Bradie James.
"I remember coming in and we watched film of Bradie and Brooking, and I thought 'I have to find way to step my game up,'" he said. "You watch these guys play with the intensity they play with -- anytime you see great players like that it's a wakeup call to you like, 'Hey, you've got to find a way to play at a high level.'"
Lee said he typically doesn't meet visiting prospects when they make their tour of the facility. Still, it's an interesting thought about the cyclical nature of the NFL. Years after he was an impressionable rookie, Sean Lee could be making an impression on the Cowboys' next Pro Bowl player.