St. Frances linebacker Shane Lee, committing to Alabama for Division I football, takes part in signing day at the high school. He is also the All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year.
St. Frances linebacker Shane Lee, committing to Alabama for Division I football, takes part in signing day at the high school. He is also the All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year.

News that St. Frances graduate Shane Lee would replace the injured Dylan Moses as the starting middle linebacker for the Alabama football team filtered out of Tuscaloosa on Wednesday. But as of Wednesday night, his father had still not gotten confirmation from his son.

“I haven’t spoken to him since last night, and he didn’t make any mention of this — at all,” Mark Lee said. “I learned about it through a friend this afternoon. I still haven’t heard from Shane. He’s just been putting in the work, and he’s trying to be prepared so when he had his opportunity, he would be ready.”

Advertisement

The 6-foot, 246-pound Lee will begin his career for the No. 2 Crimson Tide against Duke on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Atlanta after Moses suffered a torn ACL during practice Tuesday night.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban said during a Southeastern Conference media teleconference Wednesday that Lee, a Burtonsville resident, “would have the opportunity to play now.”

Moses, who made 86 tackles and 3½ sacks while starting all 15 games last season, was supposed to anchor the linebacking corps with redshirt senior Joshua McMillon. But McMillon suffered a season-ending knee injury of his own a few weeks ago, leaving the Crimson Tide to start a pair of freshmen in Lee and Christian Harris, who played primarily wide receiver and cornerback in high school.

Saban, who maintains a policy prohibiting freshmen from talking to the media until the bowl games, said the onus is on the coaching staff to prep Lee and Harris for the responsibilities on their plates.

“Fortunately, Shane Lee and Christian Harris, whether they were starters or backups, they are both bright guys and they’ve been very engaged in what they have to do to be able to go play,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any substitute for experience, but now they’re going to get the opportunity for some of that where they have an opportunity to apply the knowledge that they have. We just have to do a really good job as coaches to put them in the best situations that we know they understand what to do and they know how to execute it.”

Lee was the personification of execution at St. Frances, which leaned on him to spark a defense that did not surrender a point during the 2018 regular season and finished No. 4 in USA Today’s Super 25. He finished his senior year with 61 tackles, five forced fumbles, 4½ sacks, three pass deflections and one fumble recovery.

St. Frances football players Shane Lee, from right, Darrian Dalcourt,Jordan Jakes, Anthony Ogudo, Shawn Evans, Kwesi Evans and Edward Gatling committing to Division I football colleges take part in signing day at the high school.
St. Frances football players Shane Lee, from right, Darrian Dalcourt,Jordan Jakes, Anthony Ogudo, Shawn Evans, Kwesi Evans and Edward Gatling committing to Division I football colleges take part in signing day at the high school. (Kenneth Lam / Baltimore Sun)

Despite earning The Sun’s All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year honor and being ranked the No. 5 inside linebacker in the country by 247 Sports, Lee, a four-star prospect, avoided arrogant predictions that he would start at Alabama.

“Shane’s not that type of kid,” said St. Frances co-head Henry Russell, who also coached Lee as a freshman at Gilman. “He doesn’t say, ‘I’m going to go down there and start.’ He’s always just been, ‘I’m going to work my tail off and whatever happens, that’s what’s going to be.’ Ever since he was a freshman, he was always like that.

"Shane was never like, ‘I want to start as a freshman at Gilman.’ He was like, ‘Coach, what do I need to get better at? What do I need to do? How can I get better? Will you watch film with me?’ That’s how Shane has always been.”

In an effort last summer to improve his range in run and pass coverage, Lee participated in team workouts and then joined linebackers coach Ben Eaton for high-intensity interval training sessions. The work paid off as Lee shed about 10 pounds and enhanced his athleticism, according to Panthers assistant coach/chief of staff Messay Hailermariam.

“We started to notice that as big as he is, he can pass-drop,” Hailermariam said. “He’s athletic enough to participate in seven-on-sevens just covering guys in the slot. That’s when we were like, ‘Oh OK, this guy has a chance.’ He had a lot of upside and the potential to be something really special.”

Mark Lee said after his son graduated in December, he moved to Tuscaloosa in January to become a full-time student. Although he joked that their agreement to FaceTime every night is more for him than Shane, Mark Lee acknowledged his son had to adjust to the rigors of college football.

“It’s so challenging that it makes you question sometimes, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ ” the elder Lee said. “But he just keeps pushing forward, and he goes 100%. He’s a team player, and he’s always been committed since the ninth grade.”

Advertisement

“He just does things the right way, and that’s what the Alabama coaches have been telling us,” he said. “Some of the feedback we’ve been getting from them is, they’ve just been super impressed with him and the type of man he’s becoming and how hard he works. So I’m pretty excited for Shane and the opportunity he’s going to have.”

Mark Lee called the chance to watch his son kick off his freshman year as a starter “surreal.” But he predicted his son would keep his emotions in check.

“His mindset — I believe knowing my son — is he’s prepared. He’s been studying the playbook. He’s been doing film study,” he said. “Now the moment is here, and he’s just going to have fun and trust his instincts and trust his training and trust his coaching and just have a great game.”

Hailermariam said the coaches believe Lee and fellow Alabama freshman Darrian Dalcourt, a St. Frances grad from Havre de Grace, will make the quickest transition to college football. While Dalcourt is listed as the Crimson Tide’s third-string center, Hailermariam said Lee will not be too awed by the prospect of opening his college career as the starting middle linebacker.

“I’m sure he’s just taking it like he does every other day,” he said. “He’s business as usual. I’m sure he’s not allowing the game to be bigger than what he’s been doing as a young man. Knowing him, he’s looking at what he has to do and is making sure that he does his job because he knows that if he does his job, then everything else will fall into place. And playing the position that he’s playing, as a freshman being the quarterback of the defense, that’s a big deal.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement