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07-20-2012, 04:05 PM
Lee pumped to be in Pittsburgh
by Jordan Hofeditz/Times-Georgian

During his time at Furman University, Ryan Lee grew from a solid Division I FCS offensive lineman into an NFL prospect and is now getting his shot with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Lee, a 2007 graduate of Carrollton High School, redshirted his freshman year before getting into each of the Paladins’ 13 games in 2008 and was starting by the 2009 season. Now at 6-foot-3, 308 pounds, he has an opportunity to make the Steelers’ roster and fulfill a lifelong dream.

Coming from a smaller school like Furman, Lee wasn’t sure what his chances would be to get to the NFL. After his senior year, he was invited to play in the first AstroTurf National Football League Players Association Collegiate Bowl in Carson, Calif. — a collegiate all-star game — worked out for some NFL squads and was on teams’ radars during the draft.

“Furman is a smaller school, and I guess it’s not common for smaller-school guys to have a shot at playing in the NFL. It just doesn’t happen a whole lot. Coming from a small school, you really have to prove yourself because everybody is like, ‘Well, you didn’t play the same competition as everyone else in the country,’ which is true, so you really have to make the big games count when you have them when you do play the elite competition. Every year, that’s what I tried to make a point,” Lee said. “I wouldn’t change a thing. I had a great time at Furman. It was a great school and a great football program at that level. It was a great experience.”

While Lee wasn’t taken in the draft, it wasn’t long before the Steelers called to give him a shot.

The first step took place in Pittsburgh during Organized Team Activities, where rookies get their first chance to work out with their new team and start the process of making the roster.

“OTAs went great. It was definitely a learning experience and a drastic change from college. It’s not just a football program, it’s a business at the next level. It’s fun to see how they run everything and it’s definitely an adjustment. I feel like I did a good job making the adjustments I needed to. It was a lot to learn and a lot to pick up in a short amount of time, but if you’re able to do that, you’ve definitely got a good shot,” Lee said.

The next step will be at training camp, where Lee has to report on July 25. The Steelers have held their camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., for the past 47 years, giving a sense of familiarity for the recent college graduate.

“For us, camp compared to OTAs is definitely going to be a step up, especially now that you put the pads on. That definitely changes the game. In OTAs, we were in helmets and shorts and at that level everyone looks good in shorts. When you put the pads on, that’s definitely going to separate some people. Hopefully, that will give me an opportunity to set myself apart and earn a job at camp,” Lee said.

The former two-time all-state performer during his Trojan days is looking forward to environment of a Pittsburgh training camp.

“It’s a great opportunity. I guess our camp is a little different than a lot of teams who have camp at their own facility like Atlanta does. Ours is at a small college in Pennsylvania. It will be a different experience, almost have a little college feel to it and being back on a college campus and staying in the dorms and everything for camp. Everything I’ve heard, it’s a great experience being at camp up there,” Lee said.

There will be some added pressure moving from OTAs to training camp, where the entire team will be on hand and the Steelers’ coaching staff and front office will begin making cuts and looking to put together their roster.

“There definitely is added pressure knowing any day can be your last. You just have to mentally prepare yourself and make every practice your best. You just got to continue getting better and better every practice. If you start to get better and worse and yo-yo back and forth, that’s what they’re looking for to get you out of there. Or just if you aren’t getting any better. You just have to make a conscious effort, be mentally prepared and stay focused to get better each practice. That’s really all you can do during camp,” Lee said.

Lee will start his drive on Sunday, as he heads back to Pittsburgh and gets back to work.

“It was a good time being up there. Loved being up in Pittsburgh — great city and everything. Just looking forward to getting back up there,” Lee said.

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