COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri football team has more than a week of training camp remaining, but another important date is approaching sooner for senior linebacker Brandon Lee. By Friday, he must complete a set of online Harvard business school courses.
The classes are a prerequisite to the MU MBA program the 6-foot-2, 225-pound defensive starter will be enrolled in this fall, during his final college football season.
As an undergrad, Lee majored in personal finance with minors in business and sociology. He's not sure what he'll do with the MBA, but he needed to enroll in classes to remain eligible for the Tigers, and he said "it's business, so it's everywhere."
His teammates all seemed to have some version of the reaction Lee's roommate, linebacker Cale Garrett, offered on Wednesday: "That's all you, man. You can have that, bro. More power to you."
Lee is one of the most knowledgeable members of the Tigers' defense, teammates said, someone who has studied the scheme enough to know his responsibilities at outside linebacker and every other position's responsibilities. He is also someone who found time to complete financial internships each of the past two summers, most recently at Edward Jones and before that at Krilogy Financial in suburban St. Louis. The latter required him to make a four-hour round-trip commute a few days a week.
This summer, his internship was in Columbia, which meant he only had to workout each morning, then head to work, then go to class, then go back to his internship, then go for runs.
"(Teammates) would see me in a suit, all dressed up, and call me President Lee," said the linebacker who made 42 tackles last season. "Or Businessman."
Despite the jokes, Lee likes to think teammates admire his ambition, just as he admires the ambition of his older brother, Kenny Lee, who played football at Ball State and is now an Indianapolis detective. The Missouri linebacker wants to be a role model for his many young cousins, as well as for his peers, most of whom, he thinks, can identify with "a young African-American male doing (pursuing a MBA). ... That's kind of what I wanted to be: set a new standard for our generation."
Mizzou outside linebackers coach Brian Odom said "you can't sit there and pat him on the back enough for it."
Even if Lee's teammates don't want to become CFOs, he and Odom both believe the Tigers can learn a lesson from him: Balancing life with football is possible, as much as some might not believe it. Lee said interviewers for MU's MBA program told him they were impressed he did not have to reschedule their session.
"You make time for what's most important," Lee said. "So if on the football side of it, a guy is saying he can't make it to film, this that and the other, an extra workout or something, sometimes it's reasonable. Other times you make time for what's most important to you."
That's how the soft-spoken Lee is able to pursue an MBA and be a returning starter for the Tigers' defense. He began last season as a reserve but earned a starting job by the fifth game of the 2017 campaign because he outworked the competition in practice, Odom said. He finished the season with five tackles for loss and a pick-six.
Now, Lee's knowledge of the defense allows him to play fast, and Odom said he's one of the first Tigers to process coaches' adjustments.
Along with Lee, Mizzou returns its other two starting linebackers from last season, Garrett and Terez Hall. The trio believes it has developed a chemistry that will bear results. Garrett, a middle linebacker, said he sometimes does not have to say anything to Hall on the field, because his teammate already knows what he is thinking.
Hall and Garrett will not know what exactly Lee will be studying this fall, though.
"Oh man," Hall said when asked what he thought of Lee working toward a MBA. "I'm not going to get one."
This article is written by Aaron Reiss from The Kansas City Star and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.