The Nittany Lions will get a substantial boost on the practice and playing fields and in the locker room with the return of fifth-year senior Sean Lee to active playing status. The vastly talented and instinctive Lee missed last season when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during an April 2008 practice. Having played as a true freshman in 2005, Lee had a redshirt year available. The highly-skilled and passionate linebacker has exhibited tremendous work ethic and attitude throughout his career and his rehabilitation was no different, providing him with a chance to participate in all non-contact work during spring practice. Upon conclusion of spring drills, Lee and quarterback Daryll Clark were elected co-captains for the 2009 campaign by their teammates, to the surprise of no one who has been around the program the past couple of years. Lee had a superlative junior season in 2007 that saw him record 138 tackles and earn All-Big Ten and Defensive MVP honors in the 2007 Valero Alamo Bowl. His 138 stops were No. 5 on the Penn State season list and he ranked No. 2 in tackles in the Big Ten behind All-America teammate Dan Connor. He was selected a first-team All-American by Pro Football Weekly in 2007. A starter in all 26 games in 2006 and '07, Lee enters the season with 239 career stops, needing 17 to crack the school's Top 10, and with a very realistic chance of joining Connor and Paul Posluszny as the top three tacklers in program history. The intense and intelligent Lee will team with returning starters Navorro Bowman and Josh Hull, along with several gifted underclassmen, to again give "Linebacker U." the top unit in the nation, according to Phil Steele's 2009 College Football. Lee was named a 2009 second-team preseason All-American and first-team All-Big Ten by Phil Steele and should be a strong candidate for Butkus, Bednarik, Rotary Lombardi, Lott and Nagurski award consideration and numerous post-season athletic and academic honors. He compiled double-figures in tackles in 10 of the last 11 games of the 2007 season, giving him 12 in his still-blossoming career. The former Upper St.Clair HS football and basketball standout has effectively helped build on the foundation from last season's success with his work ethic and consistently great effort during off-season conditioning and spring drills. A focused competitor who loves to hit, Lee is a playmaker who brings tremendous desire and tenacity to every snap. He is one of the squad's most personable and service-oriented members, participating in the THON Make-A-Wish program, student-athlete reading program, Habitat for Humanity and the Pennsylvania Special Olympics State Summer Games, in addition to other community service activities. Lee owns a grade-point average above 3.00 in finance and will be a candidate for Academic All-Big Ten honors for the third time. He is on schedule to graduate in December. Lee is one of 10 returning Nittany Lions from western Pennsylvania.
2008 Senior Season
Lee tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a non-contact drill in an April 2008 practice and was sidelined for the season. He took a medical redshirt season. Lee's teammates honored the leadership and direction he had provided immediately following the 2007 season by selecting him an honorary captain at the conclusion of spring practice. Lee passionately and effectively helped build on the foundation for the success of the 2008 Big Ten title team with his work ethic and consistently great effort during off-season conditioning and spring drills. Less than 24 hours after suffering his season-ending injury, Lee was on the sidelines at practice, dealing with the setback in the mature and first class manner he had established during his initial three years as a Nittany Lion and throughout his life. While his role on the field changed, his importance as a leader, teammate, mentor and friend was not diminished. He was on the practice field and in the meeting rooms every day, assisting linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden and providing tips, reminders and guidance to the unit, in particular a crop of young, talented players looking to make an impact at "Linebacker U." Even though he was unable to play last season, the coaching staff thought so highly of Lee that he traveled to every away game as one of the 70 allowable players to dress and served as an undergraduate coach on the sidelines, helping relay signals and suggest adjustments.
2007 Junior Season
Lee had a tremendous junior season, extending his streak of starts to all 26 games over the past two seasons. Lee ranked second in the Big Ten with 138 tackles, trailing only teammate Dan Connor, and giving Penn State just its third pair of century-busting tacklers since tackle records began being kept in 1969. He was selected a first-team All-American by Pro Football Weekly. A two-time Big Ten Defensive Player-of-the-Week honoree in 2007, he earned second-team all-conference honors in a league that featured two of the three finalists for the Butkus Award and the winner of the Bednarik Award. Lee's 138 tackles were No. 5 on the school season list and he recorded double-figures in tackles in 10 of the last 11 games. Lee also recorded 10.5 tackles for loss (minus-34), 3.5 sacks, forced three fumbles, recovered three fumbles and grabbed one interception. He also was second on the team with eight pass breakups. He was tied for first in the Big Ten in fumble recoveries and was tied for No. 7 in the conference in forced fumbles. Lee punctuated his marvelous season by earning Valero Alamo Bowl Defensive Player-of-the-Game accolades. He recorded a game-high 14 tackles, tied for the most in Alamo Bowl history, to lead a defensive unit that allowed Texas A&M just three points over the final 49 minutes of the game. He also had a minus-yardage hit and a pass breakup in the 24-17 victory to earn a berth on the ESPN.com All-Bowl team. Lee began the season by being named Big Ten Defensive Player-of-the-Week after posting a team-high seven stops in the 59-0 win over Florida International. He recorded two tackles for loss to help hold FIU to minus-three yards rushing. He also made one sack, defended a pass and forced a fumble. Lee led the Lions with 12 tackles at Michigan, with one tackle for loss. He recorded a career-high 17 tackles at Illinois, at the time the most tackles by a Nittany Lion since Paul Posluszny's 22 at Northwestern in 2005. Lee tied for the team lead with 12 stops in the 38-7 win over No. 19 Wisconsin for his fifth consecutive game with at least 10 tackles. Lee made two TFL, including one sack, to receive ABC/Chevrolet Player-of-the-Game honors against the Badgers. He also recovered his first fumble of the season on the first play from scrimmage, returning it five yards, to set up a 12-yard TD drive for a quick lead. He made 13 stops, with a TFL against Ohio State. Lee was named Big Ten Co-Defensive Player-of-the-Week after compiling a game-high 12 tackles in the Senior Day win over Purdue, pushing him past the 100-tackle mark for the season. He forced two fumbles and made one recovery. Lee made the game-changing play by stripping the ball from running back Jaycen Taylor and recovering it inside the Penn State one-yard line with Purdue leading, 10-3, in the first quarter. He made 10 stops in the 31-0 win at Temple, with a fumble recovery in Lion territory and two pass breakups. Lee made 10 tackles at Michigan State, with 1.5 TFL, and a fingertip interception in Penn State territory that set up a touchdown drive. Lee was on the field for 989 plays, second-highest among all defensive players, led by 94 at Indiana and 91 against Ohio State.
2006 Sophomore Season BR>
Starting every game at outside linebacker, Lee was instrumental in helping the Penn State defense rank in the top 15 nationally in rushing (87.5 ypg, seventh), scoring defense (14.4 ppg, ninth), total defense (284.5 ypg, 15th), pass efficiency defense (105.9 rating, 14th) and sacks (40, sixth tie). Lee recorded 90 tackles, good for third on the squad, with eight tackles for losses, 5.5 sacks (minus-46), two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, one interception and two pass breakups. The signature game of his young career came at Wisconsin, as he delivered a career-high 13 tackles (seven solo), with two sacks (minus-23 yards), recovered two fumbles and forced the first fumble of his career. His first fumble recovery, coming after a Dan Connor sack, gave Penn State the ball on the Wisconsin 14. His second came in the fourth quarter after he sacked John Stocco for a loss of 14 yards, forced the fumble, recovered it and returned it seven yards to the Badgers' 40-yard line. In his first career start, Lee made six stops, with 1.5 tackles for loss in the opener with Akron. At Notre Dame, he made six stops and combined with Tony Davis for the first sack of his career. Lee was impressive at Ohio State, recording a game-high 11 tackles (six solo). He helped hold the Buckeyes' offense to 14 points and a season-low 253 yards. Lee made six hits against Northwestern and made a tremendous catch, getting his toes in on the sideline, for the first interception of his career. He led the Lions with nine tackles and broke up one pass against Michigan. Lee made seven tackles (five solo) and one sack in helping hold Purdue scoreless for the first time since 1996. The Lions held the nation's No. 8 ranked offense to 246 total yards, 202.5 below its average. In the Outback Bowl win over Tennessee, Lee and Connor combined to get the play of the game underway. With the Vols at the Lions' 14 in a 10-10 game early in the fourth quarter, they forced a fumble that teammate Tony Davis scooped up and returned 88 yards for the game-winning score. Lee made six tackles with a sack in the 20-10 win over the No. 17 Vols. Lee was on the field for 823 snaps, led by 84 against Illinois. He was selected Academic All-Big Ten.
2005 Freshman Season
The coaching staff couldn't keep the talented Lee off the field, as he made his collegiate debut against Ohio State in the primetime thriller in Beaver Stadium. He made a tackle in the huge 17-10 win over the Buckeyes and played in the final seven games, recording 11 tackles. He made a season-high five stops against Florida State in a strong performance in the FedEx Orange Bowl. Lee earned the most extensive playing time (49 snaps) of his rookie season after Paul Posluszny left the game with a knee injury. His efforts helped the Nittany Lions hold Florida State to 12 first downs, 26 rushing yards and three-of-17 on third-down conversions. He also made four tackles at Illinois. He was on the field for 163 plays over the last seven games. Lee earned Dean's List recognition during the fall semester.
Lee's career likely earned him legendary status among the long line of outstanding players who have played for Coach Jim Render at Upper St. Clair HS. A first-team Associated Press Class AAAA all-state selection, Lee was the 2005 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette High School Male Athlete-of-the-Year and was honored at the prestigious Dapper Dan Dinner in 2006. He also was named to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Terrific 25 and played in the 2005 Big 33 Classic against Ohio. USC combined to go 31-4 during his three years as a starter, including 11-1 as a senior. He ran for 1,240 yards and 21 touchdowns on 187 carries for a superlative 6.6 average and posted 95 tackles and four interceptions at safety during his senior season. He made 23 tackles and returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown in a Western Pennsylvania district AAAA semifinal game against Pittsburgh Central Catholic. The outstanding athlete also excelled on the basketball floor, leading the Panthers to a 75-12 record in three seasons as a starter. During his senior season, he averaged 21.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg and 3.2 assists per game to lead USC to the Western Pennsylvania district AAAA title. Lee is one of a select few athletes in the past 25 years to be selected to the Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 football team and the Fabulous Five basketball team. An outstanding student, Lee graduated from Upper St. Clair with a 3.70 grade-point average.
Full name is Sean Patrick Lee. He has an older brother, Conor, who was the placekicker for the University of Pittsburgh from 2005-08 and was the 2008 Big East Football Scholar-Athlete-of-the-Year. Lee is a finance major and owned a 3.09 grade-point average through the spring semester. He is on schedule to graduate in December. Lee has been selected Academic All-Big Ten twice and earned ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honors in 2007. Born July 22, 1986.
Lee's 2007 Game-by-Game
Florida International 7-7-0; Notre Dame 4-2-2; Buffalo 12-5-7; Michigan 12-5-7; Illinois 17-7-10; Iowa 11-3-8; Wisconsin 12-5-7; Indiana 4-1-3; Ohio State 13-3-10; Purdue 12-7-5; Temple 10-3-7; Michigan State 10-2-8; Texas A&M 14-4-10.
Lee's 2006 Game-by-Game
Akron 6-3-3; Notre Dame 6-2-4; Youngstown State 4-3-1; Ohio State 11-6-5; Northwestern 6-2-4; Minnesota 7-4-3; Michigan 9-4-5; Illinois 6-2-4; Purdue 7-5-2; Wisconsin 13-7-6; Temple 6-2-4; Michigan State 2-2-0; Tennessee 7-5-2.