USC’s Marqise Lee had anything but an NFL career on his mind just a few years ago.
The 21-year-old Lee grew up in Inglewood, California, in a neighborhood rife with gang violence and strife. It was hardly the ideal circumstance for the youthful Lee to grow into not only a future NFL prospect, but one of the most gifted members of this year’s receiver draft class.
It wasn’t until the offer of a friend whose parents took the young Lee in, when the talented multi-sport athlete began to flourish at Serra High School, before taking his game to the collegiate level.
Once he arrived on campus at USC, Lee quickly showed the challenges of his youth had in no way affected his ability to be a high-performing asset on the football field. He tallied 1,143 yards as a freshman for the Trojans, and followed that season up with a sophomore year that put him on many early NFL draft boards, with 118 receptions for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdown catches. He finished fourth in Heisman voting as a sophomore, and was also a consensus All-American.
After another productive year as a junior at USC, despite missing time due to injury, Lee elected to forgo his senior year to join one of the deepest receiver classes in recent memory. As many as six receivers could be chosen among the first 32 picks on May 8. At
“It doesn’t matter what offense I play in,” Lee said at the NFL Combine. “I’m someone who is going to go out there and get it and make plays. We’re all a little bit different in our game, and I think I would hold up pretty well in the NFL, and in comparison to everyone else.”
Lee has often been grouped into something of a second tier of first-round receiver options, listed among Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin and LSU’s Odell Beckham. The consensus among many draft analysts on that group of receivers remains volatile. In NFL.com’s most recent mock draft, Lee’s range of selection spanned from 18th overall to the early second round.
Wherever Lee finds himself selected, the 21-year-old looks forward to becoming an integral part of an NFL offense this fall.
“The main thing is, I’m going to compete,” Lee said. “No matter what veteran is there, what free agent they’ve brought in, I’m going to always compete—always looking to get better, not questioning anything, and looking to get the job done.”