February 1, 2018

T.J. Lee | Excited to Tackle Fatherhood

Having a baby is a life-changing event for anyone, especially when you are about to become a father for the first time, and alleviating any undue stress during this time is vital. That’s why T.J. Lee was elated to sign on the dotted line of his new contract with the BC Lions, ensuring he will be calling Vancouver home for at least the 2018 season.

“It was a big relief to get this contract done,” explained the soon-to-be father on the joy he felt when the deal was finalized Tuesday. “It was a tight window with free agency coming up and the baby coming around the same time. I’m glad to get this over with so I can focus on the most important thing, my family.”

Re-signing Lee was high on the Leos’ list of priorities. The club announced the one-year pact on Tuesday and the Pasco, WA native is excited to be staying close to home in 2018.

“Staying in the area I am from definitely was a factor in me coming back,” says the Eastern Washington alum. “The amount of love and respect I was given from the coaches and the administration in BC, my love for the city and my development with the team made this an easy decision for me.”

The 26-year-old defensive back was very effective in his fourth season in Orange, recording 49 defensive tackles, 10 pass knockdowns and one special teams stop across 15 games. T.J. is a ball-hawk and he led the team with four interceptions in 2017, including two picks against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Lions 36-27 win on October 28.

“It feels good, knowing I get to come back to play for the team I started my career with,” said T.J. on re-signing with the Leos for the 2018 season. “Ed and Wally showed a lot of interest in bringing me back and they showed me nothing but respect during the negotiation process.

“I am excited about this year. I feel like we have a good chance to win big.”

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of last season for T.J. was the fact he was able to appear in 15 games for the Lions. He missed all but four games in 2016 due to an achilles injury, but looked better than ever in 2017.

“I was just happy to be injury-free for the most part last season,” says T.J. on bouncing back from an injury-plagued 2016 season. “I understand that playing football, you get dinged up here and there, even missing a couple games can happen just because it’s a long season.

“Ultimately, I was able to get my footing out there and instil confidence in my teammates. I was able to provide the energy and enthusiasm I know I can bring to others around me. Our defence was pretty good last year and we were tight, so that’s what was the best part of last year for me personally.”

The Lions have been busy since T.J. headed south for the offseason, adding some new faces in the front office. Ed Hervey is taking over as the new general manager and Torey Hunter will be serving as the director of player personnel and player development in 2018.

“I get a really good vibe from Ed as a person,” says Lee on the Lions new GM. “I feel like he is a step in the right direction for the program. Believing in your GM and your coaches is half the battle and I believe in the guys we have in place.”

Wally Buono is returning as head coach this year and Mark Washington will be back as the club’s defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. Wally had nothing but good things to say regarding Lee, “T.J. is a very important part of our defence and he possesses big-play capabilities that we need more of this coming season. He’s become the cornerstone of our secondary and someone we expect to take on an increased leadership role.”

“I’m excited to have Wally back,” Lee said on how he feels to have the winningest coach in CFL history returning to the sidelines this season. “Wally and Ed are both doing a great job of making me feel valued and I’m ready to take on a leadership role this season.”

Lee spent much of the last offseason visiting doctors to rehab his achilles, but this offseason has been filled with doctor visits of a different kind. T.J.’s long-time girlfriend, Britney, is due to give birth to a baby girl next month.

“Britney and I are expecting a baby girl in early February,” says Lee on his expanding family. “I have been distracted this offseason by getting everything ready and going to Lamaze classes with my lady.

“I’m excited about the dynamic of life to be changing, you know. I feel like it is all for the better and basically, I am just happy.”

When training camp opens in mid-May, T.J. will be a proud new father. Lee is already one of the most mature athletes in the Leos’ locker room and having a daughter will only make him even more of a steadying presence in 2018. He is hungry to provide for his growing family and that is something the Lions’ faithful should be excited about.

“I feel like my work isn’t done yet in BC, my full potential hasn’t been really shown yet,” opined Lee. “I’m excited to take what’s mine out there, be the leader I know I can be and I’m ready to get the season started.”

bhelberg@bclions.com