St. Frances' Shane Lee, the Alabama-bound top inside linebacker in Maryland, striving to be better

St. Frances linebacker Shane Lee says he might have a chance to get on the field next fall at Alabama as a true freshman.

What does that mean to one of nation’s top inside linebacker recruits about his first season with the No. 1 college football team in the country?

“It means I have a lot of work do to,” Lee said.

Lee, 17, has never been one to rest on his accomplishments — and he has a lot of them.

An All-Metro first-team selection last season, he’s a four-star recruit. He’s rated the No. 2 overall prospect in Maryland by 247Sports.com and the No. 5 inside linebacker in the country.

To Lee, though, that doesn’t mean much. He said he never looks at recruiting websites. High rankings and accolades are not his goals.

“It doesn’t really mean anything,” Lee said. “It’s somebody’s opinion. I appreciate it but …”

He just keeps working. There’s always another goal ahead — such as finishing his senior year strong and helping the No. 1 Panthers (4-0) to a second straight unbeaten season. The Panthers, No. 1 in Maryland and No. 7 in USA Today’s Super 25, travel to Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., on Friday to play St. Thomas More (Conn.).

Lee’s St. Frances coaches said he works as hard as anyone and he will have no problem continuing that legacy for as long as he plays football, a career he hopes will take him to the NFL.

“If he’s struggling with something, he’s going to keep working until he figures it out,” St. Frances co-coach Henry Russell said. “I think that’s why he’s attractive for Alabama. They have great talent, but they need leaders. They need guys to do things the right way. Shane is what they’re looking for in someone who provides that to a team. They’re real excited about that part of Shane. He’s on top of everything.”

In addition to standing out on the field, Lee earned straight A’s last semester and is a member of the National Honor Society. His mother works in cybersecurity and has three college degrees. His father is a Montgomery County police officer. With those role models, Lee values education and he plans to get a jump on his degree, likely in business marketing, when he enrolls at Alabama in January.

His intelligence also shows as the quarterback of the Panthers defense, a job that requires split-second decision-making on every down.

“They put a lot on their middle linebacker from a check standpoint,” Archbishop Spalding coach Kyle Schmitt said. “I remember playing them last year and we were kind of getting in and out of checks and they were checking into a cover zero blitz. Shane’s getting that all figured out and that’s not easy to do, to get 10 other guys going in the right direction. There’s a back and forth between the quarterback and the middle linebacker and the offensive coordinator and he does a nice job of getting the checks from Henry and Stan [White].”

After a junior season with 78 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, many college coaches wanted Lee. He originally liked Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, but the idea of playing at Alabama, which has won five national championships in the past nine years, intrigued him.

“I’d never been to Alabama, so I told my parents I’d like to visit Alabama,” said Lee, whose parents are longtime friends of Crimson Tide assistant coach Mike Locksley.

“They were on board. They’d never been there. We only knew what people told us, but we wanted to see for ourselves,” Lee said. “It really just felt like home. They made me feel comfortable down there. It’s a little bit far, but change is good sometimes. I just felt like the opportunity, I couldn’t pass it up. I feel like it just fit me the best.”

He committed in April and plans to sign in December.

In his quest to be the best linebacker in the country, Lee said he likes to study the NFL’s best, such as former Raven Ray Lewis, the Chicago Bears’ Khalil Mack and the San Francisco 49ers’ Patrick Willis. He doesn’t model his game on any one of them, but looks for pointers in the way they play, especially about the mental side of the game.

“Where their eyes are focused, their first step tells me a lot,” Lee said, “so if they see a guard pull, their first step would be in that direction. It’s things like that, little things that … if you pay attention to it, it will help you a lot.”

Calling himself a downhill linebacker, Lee is also strong at 6 feet 1 and 245 pounds. He played on the offensive line until he was in eighth grade and looks almost as if he’s wearing shoulder pads all the time.

When he started his high school career at Gilman as a freshman, his teammates nicknamed him The Hulk.

Since then, Lee, who commutes to his Burtonsville home every day, has played at two other high schools.

After coach Biff Poggi left Gilman for a year at Michigan and Russell moved to St. Frances, Lee played his sophomore year in 2016 at St. John’s in Washington. Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association rules would have forced him to sit out a year had he transferred directly to St. Frances.

In 2017, he returned to the coaches who had recruited him to Gilman — especially Poggi, Russell and Bill McGregor — and who, Lee said, had instilled in him, “building a foundation off of God. I really appreciated that and I really loved it. That’s why I came back.”

Lee drew some criticism on social media for moving from school to school, but he tried to not pay attention to that. He just used it to fuel his determination to be the best and did his talking on the field.

“It’s taught me a lot about people and circumstances and controlling the controllables, and it’s taught me a lot about life,” Lee said. “I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I was, I guess, hurt by it, but I appreciate it now looking back on it.

“Coaches leaving Gilman, transferring to three different schools, a lot of people talking down on me because of it. But I guess being highly ranked or whatever [and drawing] a lot of negative attention’s helped me a lot. … You can’t believe what they say. You’ve got to stay on an even plane and just stick to the grind, keep working every day.”

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kdunnsun

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