BY HOPE HARRINGTON OAKES
Columbus native Tyson Lee is happy to finally be home. The former quarterback for Columbus High School, Itawamba Community College and Mississippi State University has traveled a great deal these past few years, playing and working around the sport he loves best. The past year was spent traveling for the St. Louis Rams as one of their scouts. Though he really enjoyed what he was doing, Lee said he felt that something was missing. When he was contacted about working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Mississippi State University, he said that the Lord was speaking with him.
“We have a huddle meeting every Monday night which is kind of like a Bible study, and I help lead that,” Lee said “It’s open to all student athletes and nonathletes, alike. We meet on campus at 8 p.m. every Monday. Throughout the week, though, I’ll go to football practices, and other sports practices and kind of mingle with the athletes to let them see me and try to develop a relationship with them, so that if they ever had an issue off the field or off the court, then they feel like they can come talk to us outside of the Monday night bible study. They need to see that someone is showing an interest in them and their sport and it helps develop that trusting relationship.”
After Lee completed graduate school, Lee said he thought he was done with school. However, a love of the game and a love for people may call him back to academia.
”You know the only thing I would go for a doctorate in, and I said I would never go back to school, but if I did, I love sports, obviously, I played it, I worked in the NFL, but what I’ve seen with football, particularly football, is a lot of the guys that played in college, when they get done playing, their quality of life, if you will, is not very good,” Lee said. “That’s not to say that college football hurt them, but I would not say that it always helped. My course of study would be to discover why is it that you can go to four years college to get all this stuff: free education, free place to live, free food, fame, everything, then they leave. In a lot of the guys I’ve played with, it’s like they leave college worse than when they came, or more immature in a sense than when they first came. So I would love to study the effects of what it was in that four years, just kind of study the effects of does college football hurt them or help them whenever they get done playing.”
Lee said he saw firsthand the toll college athletics can take on a person.
“Free education, really the discipline, the commitment, the work ethic, all these values you’re supposed to learn from football, what I’ve seen is that most guys when they get done playing, those values are no longer there,” Lee said. “They gain forty to fifty pounds, they don’t really try to find work anymore, because for so long everything was just kind of handed to them. Life was easy. So when they got to the real world they don’t really know how to cope. So if I studied, it would be something like that.”
Lee credits his family and his faith in God with his ability to come through his college years literally unscathed. He is constantly trying to help others in the same way.
“One of the guys I played with at MSU He’s one of those guys who struggled with the transition from college to the real world,” he said. “I usually send him bible verses throughout the week, just randomly text him to see how he’s doing. He never responded, but today, he sent me a message saying ‘hey man, thanks for the prayers. I need it. So for me, that’s kind of where I feel like my sense of purpose is to help these guys out. That’s kind of why I came back to help these guys understand that there’s life outside of football. This is good, but there comes a point where this is no longer here. Most of the time in life when it hits them, they’re on their own. For four years they’ve had coaches, counselors, people in their corner, and when they leave college, it’s as if they don’t have anyone in their corner anymore. It’s a tough, tough, tough transition for a lot of guys. Most people don’t get to see it. I’ve seen firsthand, a lot of guys go through depression because their identity was tied up into that sport, ‘I’m a quarterback, a wide-receiver, etc., so when they try to leave, they don’t know how to handle it.’ It’s even starting as early as little league-age and middle school age.”
Before Lee left St. Louis, he said he thought about going to Austin, Texas to begin a non-profit organization which would help young men in need learn to be better men dealing with these same issues and having a closer relationship with God.
Lee says if he did go back to school to get his Ph.D., he’d be interested in being a superintendent or administration. Lee received his undergraduate degree in Biology Education, but feels like being confined to a classroom would be really hard on him.
”I played with guys in college who could barely read,” Lee said. “They were passed on and on just because they were good athletes. For me, what I saw, there’s going to come a point in time. My mom was tough, but she would always say if we gave it our best, that was good enough for her. Sometimes, I knew I didn’t give it my best, but it made me feel guilty and make me want to work harder for her.”
After he completed graduate school, Lee and three friends backpacked across Europe for a month. They visited nine countries in four weeks, even experiencing a train wreck. For now, Lee is enjoying spending time with his family: his mom, Tammy Nordquist, and brother, Trace, sister, Tamber and dad, Thomas Lee, and his grandparents. Another reason he said he’s happy to be home is his friend, Christa Hudson, who also works at MSU. Ironically, they met through mutual friends while Lee was in St. Louis, and she was there on MSU business. “It’s all due to the Lord,” Lee said. “ I was single in a big city, she came up and we had a cup of coffee. She was just so confident when I met her, and I was drawn to that.”
Lee said he is confident that he is where he is supposed to be in life.
“What you do for yourself dies when you die, what you do for others lives when you die,” Lee said. “That speaks to me. That what I do for others…lives on, even when I’m not there. I just want to be that person, serving the Lord and doing for others.”