Eric Lee Jr. saw the field this season prior to Nebraska's matchup with Purdue, but only on special teams. The junior made his 2018 debut at cornerback on Saturday after starter Lamar Jackson was benched following a holding penalty negated an interception.
Lee didn't have much notice that he would play that day. In fact, he found out on the play right before he entered the game.
“It’s definitely been a while since I’ve been out there taking defensive snaps like I did," Lee said. "I thought I did fairly well. I have a lot I can improve on and that’s something I’ll go over with coach today.”
Lee said the team is finally starting to see the bigger picture of what they'd like to accomplish this season. One of those goals that the coaching staff has mentioned repeatedly is instilling good practice habit across the board.
Lee has taken that message to heart.
"I think for them to be able to put me out there on short notice, they have some trust in me," he said. "I think the way I’ve been practicing and been able to pay attention in film room and all that stuff has helped.”
The defender also credits staying level-headed and coming to practice every day knowing that your time may come soon. Defensive back coach Travis Fisher sees that from Lee in practice too, and uses him as an example of a guy that has faced adversity and come out of the other side.
“Yeah I think his practice habits have changed," Fisher said. “Mentality has changed. It had to change with some adversity and that was me not playing him. Not starting him and giving him what he’s probably used to and me grinding him in practice. Is he where he needs to be? No. That’s because it’s not about Eric, it’s about the group and if you’re a guy that has been here for a while and understand how it goes then bring the group with you. Bring the guys not doing it with you. Speak up when you see it not being done right.
"That’s the part that we all need to take part in.”
Lee appears to be on the same page. Mentality is where he says he’s improved the most since the last time he saw the field on defense.
“I think my mindset has changed drastically," Lee said. "Thanks to Coach [Zach] Duval. Another thing that Coach [Scott] Frost preaches is 'no fear of failure' so even if you miss a tackle, just make sure he gets down on that play, fix it and no one will cuss you out or anything like that.
"I really think that no fear of failure has stuck with me and allows me to play a lot more freely.”
Perhaps that new mindset was exactly what was needed for the light to come on for the corner who wasn't seeing the field outside of special teams. Lee will get a tough test on Saturday in his first game back in the starting lineup against a talented pack of Badgers at Wisconsin.
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.