JACKSONVILLE – Marqise Lee has something to prove.
Lee, a highly-regarded wide receiver from the University of Southern California, attended the 2014 NFL Draft in New York City and was not drafted until Friday’s second round, watching with his family while 38 teams passed on him.
The Jaguars didn’t pass on Friday, selecting him with the seventh selection of the second round – the No. 39 selection overall – and Lee said motivation won’t be an issue.
Not even close.
“Of course, of course,” Lee said Friday shortly after his selection by the Jaguars. “Just me being drafted in general is a motivator, to tell you the truth.”
Lee (6-feet-0, 192 pounds) forewent his senior season to enter the draft, having caught 248 passes for 3,655 yards and 29 touchdowns in three seasons at Southern California. He won the Biletnikoff Award as a sophomore, catching 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns, and some analysts believe he would have been a first-round selection last year.
“When he gets the ball in his hands he’s electric,” Caldwell said, adding, “He’s a tough kid and as he just said on TV, he’s got a chip on his shoulder because he fell to (Selection No.) 39 and we’re excited to have him.”
Caldwell said Lee suffered last season because of a head coaching change, shoulder, leg and knee injuries, as well as the absence of quarterback Matt Barkley, who left for the NFL following the 2013 season.
He caught 57 passes for 791 yards and four touchdowns as a junior, having caught 73 passes for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns as a freshman.
“He had two really good years before that and it’s not like his year last year was terrible but it wasn’t up to par to what it was the previous two years,” Caldwell said.
Lee said the knee injury slowed him significantly as a junior, playing in pain much of the season.
“I still was going to get out there and get it,” he said.
He added that he didn’t feel 100 percent until the Las Vegas Bowl following the season.
“I actually got hurt at the beginning of the season,” Lee said. “One thing the doctor told me was, ‘You need time.’ During the season, you don’t really have time.”
Caldwell said the Jaguars weren’t concerned with last season’s injuries.
“He’s fine,” Caldwell said. “Actually, he’s really clean. The issue was early on in the season and he came back and there were no issues with him.”
Lee arrives in Jacksonville with Jaguars connections. A highly coveted player while at Gardena (CA) Junípero Serra High School, Lee was recruited by current Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch when the latter held the same position at the University of Miami.
“We had a little relationship here and there, and I got a chance to meet him (again) in Indianapolis (at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February),” Lee said, adding of Fisch’s scheme, “I think I’ll fit in great, to tell you the truth.”
Lee also met new Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles at the combine.
“Blake is great,” he said. “We get along very well. I had an opportunity to meet him in Indianapolis, and we’ve been cool ever since.”
Lee overcame obstacles before arriving at Southern California. His parents, Elton Lee and Anfernee Williams, are deaf, and he spent time in foster care as a youth. One brother was murdered in a gang-related incident and another has been imprisoned for attempted murder.
“It was pretty rough,” Lee said, and when asked on Friday how he dealt with it, he replied, “I found an alternative. After seeing my mom stressing out, I took it upon myself to change and become a positive role model for not only my mom but my sister, too.”
Lee attended the draft ceremony in New York with members of his family, including his mother, his stepmother and stepfather, his sister and his stepbrother.
“It’s always tough, because everybody who sits in that room wants to get drafted as early as possible,” Lee said. “At that time, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I want to get drafted.’ When you come in the next day and you really think about it, you realize at the end of the day you still have the opportunity to make it into the league and prove a point.”
Said Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley, “Whatever his background is, he is mentally tough. Whatever helped him in that process, his competitiveness and his toughness I think are his greatest attributes.”