Lee Still Chasing NFL Dream
HARRISONBURG — Vad Lee isn’t afraid to admit it.
He said he rushed to get healthy for a shot at the NFL after suffering a season-ending foot injury in the fall of 2015 — his final year at James Madison.
“Anytime you have your dream right in front of you, especially coming off the season that we had and the season that I was having personally, I wanted to continue to keep that going and wanted to play at the next level,” Lee said Wednesday when he was back on campus in Harrisonburg to participate at JMU’s pro day.
Lee thrived as a redshirt senior for Madison. He won the Dudley Award for a second consecutive season and was named Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year, despite playing in only eight games.
The quarterback, who began his college career at Georgia Tech, threw for 2,190 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for 814 yards and eight touchdowns in his last season for the Dukes. With Lee behind center, JMU started 7-0 in his senior season and those wins were highlighted by a 48-45 victory at
FBS Southern Methodist when he scored five total touchdowns and became the first player in Division I history to pass for at least 275 yards and rush for at least 275 yards in the same game.
Lee made it back to work out at JMU’s pro day last year, but he went undrafted when the NFL Draft rolled around later in the spring. He spent time in the New York Giants’ rookie minicamp in May before signing to play with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League in July.
“What I took away was that I could definitely play at that level,” he said. “In Canada and the NFL, I feel like I could play at those levels. I’m athletic enough. I’m able to make the throws.
“But ultimately I decided to come back home because I wasn’t fully healthy. I stayed off my foot for about four months.”
The former All-American didn’t play in the fall — he coached at his old high school. He said he was the co-offensive coordinator at Hillside High School in Durham, N.C., while he waited for his foot to heal.
Once Lee was fully recovered, he put all his effort into what he hopes is his next opportunity.
Lee trained at Earl Williams’ Georgia Sports Performance to fine-tune his speed, quarterback mechanics and quarterback footwork.
“They have really been testing me and pushing me to the limit to where my foot has truly made great improvement, so I’m happy with where I’m at today,” Lee said.
JMU coach Mike Houston invited Lee to the pro day showcase to work out alongside the 10 outgoing seniors from this past season’s championship team.
One scout said he had Lee clocked at a 4.40 40-yard dash. Lee also performed a routine of throws — some out of the shotgun, some from under center, some off of play-action motion — slinging the ball to running back Khalid Abdullah and wide receivers Rashard Davis, Brandon Ravenel and Domo Taylor on a chilly day at Bridgeforth Stadium.
“I’m happy with my performance,” Lee said. “I was able to run well. I was able to test well and threw the ball well even in these cold conditions. The hands are frozen, the toes are frozen, but at the next level you’re going to play in stadiums where it’s going to be really cold.”
Abdullah said he thought Lee threw well.
“That was old times. I had flashbacks,” Abdullah said. “Vad Lee has a strong arm and he was definitely putting those passes on target.
“He’s an amazing guy and hopefully everything works out for him, but it was a flashback, it was cool and exciting.”
Lee added he’s excited for what could come next for him. Unlike the 10 other Dukes that worked out, Lee won’t have to wait until after the draft to sign a contract. He’s a free agent and can sign with any NFL or CFL team.
“Being hindered by injury kind of set me back a little bit, but this year I’m planning on being fully healthy and hopefully somebody can pick me up,” Lee said.