New leader: Ga. Tech transfer Lee ready to guide Dukes

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

HARRISONBURG — It was an easy decision.

Towards the end of last season, Vad Lee knew it was time for him to move on from Georgia Tech. There wasn’t much question in his mind where he wanted to go — James Madison University.

“Throughout this process I was trying to give everybody a fair chance and everything, but for some reason James Madison just kept coming up as No. 1 in my mind,” Lee said at JMU’s media day.

Lee said one reason he was interested in JMU was knowing Everrett Withers would be his coach. Withers, who was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State University last year, recruited Lee when Withers was the interim head coach at the University of North Carolina.

“Coach Withers definitely had an influence on me,” Lee said. “I seen that he took the job in December, and when I seen that that’s when the James Madison triggered in my head. And I prayed on it.”

Lee wasted no time in coming to Harrisonburg and settling in. He had a strong spring game, earning him the starting quarterback job.

He’s also quickly won over his teammates, and shown strong leadership skills.

“Vad’s great. He’s a heck of a guy, and he’s a heck of a competitor,” JMU redshirt senior Daniel Brown said. “Whenever we would have some sort of time off or something, he would text all of us or call one of us and say we’re going to throw or we’re going to go watch some film. He wants to win really bad and that’s really good. He’s real easy to get along with.”

Lee said he’s already very happy with his decision to play at JMU.

“I’m happy to be here. I’m happy that my teammates have embraced me being here. And also this great community of Harrisonburg,” Lee said. “It’s a small community, which I really love about it because I really get to connect and reach out to other people.”

As passionate as Lee is about football, he’s just as excited to be a role model for kids.
Lee spent much of his summer working with kids at two Boys and Girls club locations in Harrisonburg.

He said he even brought them to JMU and showed them around the facilities.

“It was a huge deal for me to have an influence in their life,” Lee said. “To also be a college football player. To give them hope and to really help them understand that I’m living out my dream that I set when I was their age. I’m kind of like living proof for them, because when I was their age I was dreaming of being a college football player.
“It was great. Working with kids is my passion.”

Lee was a standout quarterback at Hillside High School in Durham, North Carolina and he had a lot of success there.

Withers said he was very impressed with Lee and his throwing ability when he was in high school.

“He’s from one of the better programs in the state of North Carolina, that’s put out a lot of talented players,” Withers said. “Georgia Tech got a steal, they just couldn’t keep him. He can definitely throw the football, because I had the opportunity to see him lead his team to the state playoffs and state championships.”

At Georgia Tech, Lee had 32 total touchdowns in two seasons with the Yellow Jackets.
Lee wants to become a better all-around quarterback and Withers said he is looking forward to seeing Lee continue to get better.

Lee said he wants to help JMU be successful, and he is confident the Dukes will do well this season. Last year he threw for 1,561 yards and ran for 513 yards. Last season he was named the ACC Offensive Back of the Week and the Athlon ACC Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 16.

Having played in the ACC, Lee said he was grateful for his time at Georgia Tech, but now he’s ready to accomplish big things at JMU over the next two years.

“It was big time playing in the ACC,” Lee said. “It’s always been one of my dreams to play big time college football, and I accomplished that and I had some success playing in the ACC. Playing on Thursday night games is always fun. I’m certainly thankful for everything Georgia Tech had to offer, and I’m just happy to move on to James Madison.

“We do what we’re supposed to do and we’ll be big time, too.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd