Staff Photo: Jason Braverman . Buford's Dillon Lee
For more than a decade Buford has produced some of the state’s top football players. Guys that have gone on to win Super Bowl rings, become household names in college football or set Georgia state records.
Dillon Lee is the next line of standout players.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound linebacker may be the most athletic player to ever don the green and gold uniform.
The Lee File
Name: Dillon Lee
Height: 240 pounds
College choice: Alabama
Nickname: Dragon Warrior
Place of birth: Lawrenceville
Role model: Brian Urlacher
Favorite restaurant: Taco Bell
Favorite store: Value Village
Favorite teacher: Mr. S
Favorite subject: Math
Test messages I send a month: A lot
Number of Facebook friends: Thousand something
Funniest teammate: Kurt Freitag
Life’s dream: To live on Madagascar
Info line: In his first year as a starter at outside linebacker, Lee posted 71 tackles, five interceptions and three sacks. He quickly made a name for himself when he posted 13 tackles against Carver-Columbus’ Isiah Crowell, the state’s top running back last year. Lee will take his talents to Tuscaloosa, Ala., after committing to the Crimson Tide in May.
Coach Jess Simpson’s take: “We could play him at tight end, but we play him a lot at flanker. His best positions are on defense. As a Sam backer and he plays nickel for us because he handles space so well. He will probably end up playing inside backer at the next level. Dillon is one of those guys that can see it and do it one or two times and he gets it. He runs as good a route as any 175-pound receiver. He catches the ball and makes athletic adjustments.”
“I’ve said this before, just to be that big of an athlete, I’ve never seen football come that easy to anybody,” Buford head coach Jess Simpson said.
Buford has been using the same preseason strength and conditioning test for more than 15 years. The test consists of bench press, squat, power clean, 40-yard dash, vertical jump, shuttle run and a 1.5 mile run.
Dillon Lee’s numbers were better than any player to ever walk through Buford.
Better than Super Bowl winners Tim Wansley and P.K. Sam, college standouts Mikey Henderson or Justin Roper, or record-setting running back Darius Walker.
“We’ve pretty much been using the same test for 20, 30 years,” Simpson said. “You can compare him to any player that has come thr ough Buford and there’s not a kid that has achieved what he has. Nobody has been able to do what he’s doing.”
Lee gained national notoriety for his strength and speed this summer. He was one of 150 players invited to The Opening, a national strength and conditioning test sponsored by Nike in Eugene, Ore.
“I had never done a combine until I went out there,” Lee said. “I just figured I would have fun going out there.”
Lee ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash and posted a 35.6 inch vertical jump to place eighth in the nation.
“I knew it was going to be the top 150 players in the country and I would see a lot of the top players from everywhere,” Lee said. “You get a good look at game speed and how good everyone else in the country is.”
But Lee isn’t just a standout in the weight room. In his first year as a starter he posted 71 tackles, five interceptions and three sacks to help Buford to its fourth straight state championship.
“He’s a hybrid guy and does it all well,” Simpson said. “There are weight room guys or track guys that can’t play football. Certainly the work he’s done transfers to football.”
Lee saw the field as a backup as a freshman and sophomore, playing primarily at the end of blowout games or on special teams.
After his sophomore season, Auburn signee Jessel Curry passed down his No. 22 jersey to Lee. He kept the number proud by earning all-state honors last season. In the second game of the year, Lee quickly showed he was ready for spotlight. He made 13 tackles against Carver-Columbus, which featured the state’s top running back and current Georgia freshman Isaiah Crowell. Against Therrell two weeks later he had three catches and three touchdowns.
“There were a few things I did last year that surprised me,” Lee said. “I had to wait my turn in our program. I felt like I could have done things my sophomore year, but I guess it was worth the wait. It worked out perfect.”
As Lee excelled through the season, his college interest began to increase. By the time spring practice rolled around this year he had more than a dozen major scholarship offers. Lee committed to Alabama in May, choosing the Tide over Florida State and Georgia, where his older brother Dallas is an offensive lineman.
Dallas Lee was a junior when Buford started its current run of state championships and didn’t lose a game his last year of high school. That’s a feeling Dillon wants to have this year.
“I want to win state and keep our streak going,” Lee said. “I don’t want to lose a game like we’ve been doing, going 14-1. I just want to be 15-0 for my senior year.”