Former Eagle DB Headed to CFL's B.C. Lions - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Former Eagle DB Headed to CFL's B.C. Lions

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T.J. Lee III will continue his football career in Canada with the CFL's B.C. Lions. T.J. Lee III will continue his football career in Canada with the CFL's B.C. Lions.
by EWU Athletics

T.J. Lee III decided not to wait for the NFL, so the former Eastern Washington University cornerback is heading to some familiarity in British Columbia.

Lee signed a free agent contract with the B.C. Lions on Thursday, May 22, where he will be teammates with another former Eagle out of Seattle. Defensive halfback Ryan Phillips, who played for EWU in 2003 and 2004, is a 2000 Franklin High School graduate and has been a fixture in the secondary for the Lions ever since. Lee is a 2009 graduate of West Seattle High School.

“I talked to him a lot at my tryout,” said Lee, who will report to training camp in June. “He gave me pointers and helped a lot.”

Lee had been talking with the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League about potential openings on their rosters down the road, but elected to take the sure thing instead.

“It all turned out well in the end,” said Lee, a two-time All-American and three-time first team All-Big Sky Conference selection. “I had a tryout last weekend and it felt good. I called back and decided not to wait around, but create my own path instead. Before that I was just trying to stay focused, work out and wait for the right opportunity.”

In winning three-straight first team All-Big Sky honors, Lee became only the third Eagle in school history – and the first on defense -- to accomplish that feat. In fact, only 45 total players in the 50-year history of the league have earned three first team accolades, as well as another three who have four-peated.

Besides the Big Sky honor, he was selected this season as a first team All-America cornerback by the American Football Coaches Association, College Sporting News (“Fabulous 50”), College Sports Madness and Beyond Sports Network, and a second team choice by the Associated Press and The Sports Network. He finished the year with 114 tackles to rank 14th in school history and his 11 passes broken up were 10th.

Lee concluded his career by playing in the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 19, 2014. In fact, he by chance met Phillips’ uncle on that trip to Southern California.

Lee finished his Eastern career with 263 tackles, four interceptions, 25 passes broken up and 3 1/2 sacks in his 49-game career (35 starts). He is just the 35th Eagle in school history to have 200 career tackles and finished ranked 11th. He owns sole possession of the school record for most career forced fumbles with seven, and his 25 passes broken up ranks sixth.

Phillips was a first team All-Big Sky selection in 2004 for EWU and had 61 tackles, six interceptions and 10 passes broken up in his 18-game career. He quickly earned a starting position for B.C., which won the Grey Cup in 2006.

About to begin his 10th season as a Lion, Phillips was a CFL All-Star for the fourth time in 2013 (as well as in 2012, 2010 and 2007). He extended his active games-played streak to 162 last season, and has 146 starts, 37 interceptions and 388 tackles in his career. His interception total is fourth in franchise history and his tackles are second.

“It does help,” Lee said of having a fellow Seattle native and Eagle on the B.C. roster. “We talked a lot about his time at Eastern. He’s a smart player and knows his stuff. He’s intelligent on the football field and I know I will learn a lot from him.”


T.J. Lee III, Cornerback, Senior – All-American
  • Selected as a first team All-America cornerback by the American Football Coaches Association, College Sporting News (“Fabulous 50”), College Sports Madness and Beyond Sports Network, and a second team choice by the Associated Press and The Sports Network.
  • Only the third player in school history and 45th in the 50-year-old Big Sky Conference to win first team All-Big Sky Conference honors three times.
  • Had 114 tackles in the 2013 season to rank 14th in school history and his 11 passes broken up were 10th.
  • Lee is in sole possession of the school record for career forced fumbles with seven and had a school-record four in the 2013 season to rank 27th in FCS in average per game (0.27). He finished third nationally in fumble recoveries per game with a total of four.
  • Lee finished his career with 263 tackles to rank 11th in school history, and is one of only 35 Eagles in school history to finish with more than 200. He also had four interceptions, 25 passes broken up (sixth in school history) and 3 1/2 sacks in his 49-game career (35 starts).
  • Lee earned All-America honors in 2012 from The Sports Network (second team), and was also honored on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” All-America squad.
Head Coach Beau Baldwin On T.J. Lee: “T.J. has been incredible. In this conference with such a rich history and the competition you are up against every week, to be recognized as a three-time first team All-Big Sky player is hard to do. He’s gone out and earned it. He was third on our team in tackles and cornerbacks don’t usually make a lot of tackles. He’s ferocious. He has cover skills, he can blitz, he can force and recover fumbles and he can flat out tackle. Unselfishly, he went back there and played safety for us when we were in a bind. He averaged double digits in tackles in those two games, including 14 against Montana State. He’s a great, All-America type of player for us. He will surely be missed.”

T.J. Lee III - a three-time first team All-Big Sky cornerback and two-time All-American for the Eastern Washington University football team, earned first team All-Big Sky Conference honors for the third-straight season in 2013. The 2009 graduate of West Seattle High School became only the third Eagle in school history – and the first on defense -- to accomplish that feat. In fact, only 45 total players in the 50-year history of the league have earned three first team accolades, as well as another three who have four-peated. Besides the Big Sky honor, he was selected as a first team All-America cornerback by the American Football Coaches Association, College Sporting News (“Fabulous 50”), College Sports Madness and Beyond Sports Network, and a second team choice by the Associated Press and The Sports Network. Lee concluded his career by playing in the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 19, 2014. He finished his Eastern career with 263 tackles, four interceptions, 25 passes broken up and 3 1/2 sacks in his 49-game career (35 starts). He is just the 35th Eagle in school history to have 200 career tackles and finished ranked 11th. He owns sole possession of the school record for most career forced fumbles with seven, and his 25 passes broken up ranks sixth. Three times in his career he forced and recovered the same fumble, with two of them occurring on quarterback sacks. One of those three came in 2013 against North Dakota (10/12/13) when he also finished with six tackles and a pass broken up. He had a trio of passes broken up at Idaho State (11/2/13) and had a career-high 14 tackles and the fourth interception of his career one game later against Montana State (11/9/13) in his first-ever start at safety for the Eagles. He finished his career with five performances with at least 10 tackles in his career, and in 2013 he ranked 14th in school history with 114 total tackles, ranked 10th with 11 passes broken up and set a school record with four forced fumbles. Lee earned All-America honors in 2012 from The Sports Network (second team), and was also honored on the College Sporting News “Fabulous 50” All-America squad. He piled up some impressive statistics in 2012, ranking third on the team with 90 tackles and finishing with 11 passes broken up to rank 10th in school history. His average of 6.4 tackles per game ranked 29th in the Big Sky and his total of 11 passes broken up were second. The two-time first team All-Big Sky selection also had 2 1/2 sacks, nine total tackles for loss, an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. As a sophomore in 2011, Lee was a first team All-Big Sky selection, finishing the season with 48 tackles, a pair of interceptions and one pass broken up.
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