Growing up in Upper St. Clair, Pa., a hop, skip and jump southwest of Pittsburgh, Sean Lee was, as expected, the All-American boy. He excelled academically and was a superb soccer and basketball player. It wasn't until late in high school that his football talents exceeded his hoops game.
In this edition of Fathers, Sons & Football, Lee's father, Craig, a lawyer who was also the captain of his high school football team, reminisces on what Sean discusses in the corresponding video about one of the most impactful moments of his childhood:
"Sean was 7 years old, and it was the last game of the fall soccer season. Both teams were undefeated. It was around 40 degrees, though, with a mix of snow and rain. I was one of the coaches and I was thinking, 'No way. We have no interest in playing this game. It would be beyond goofy to have 7-year old kids take the field.' The opposing coach wanted to play, and he wouldn't change his mind. He kept saying, 'No, no, we have to play. We have to decide the championship,' like it really mattered, but anyway, we take the field.
"They had a great team, Jason Richards, who led the nation in assists while playing with Stephen Curry at Davidson College was on the other team, and another kid who played Division 1 soccer. I'm kind of annoyed we're playing the game and pull Sean aside before it starts.
"I told him, 'We, as Lees, are mudders. We are tough. It doesn't matter what the conditions are, doesn't matter the temperature or what the field looks like. We always give it everything we have. There are no excuses. Don't waste time complaining or finding excuses.' Even at that age, I could talk with Sean like that. He could grasp it, process it.
"So an hour or so after kickoff, Sean has four goals, we win the game, and all their players are on the bench wrapped in blankets, some of them are crying, just miserably cold, not wanting to be there.
"And there's Sean, covered in mud. I mean covered. You couldn't even recognize him except for his big smile. He was as happy as a kid could be."