Week 7, October 28, 2017—Harvard vs. Dartmouth—two minutes left on the clock. Everyone is gassed. The game has been back and forth with Dartmouth down three attempting to put together one last drive to win the game. I look over at Tanner Lee, who is equally gassed, and he nods his head, as if to say, “It’s time to make a play and win this game.” Unsurprisingly, that next play Tanner picks off the quarterback and we hold on to win by three. Big time players make big time plays, and that was Tanner’s MO. This is Tanner now, but let’s look at how he got here.
Tanner is from a small town in Alabama named Daphne. He has always been overlooked. He was small in high school, and most of college. As one of the latest recruits to get offered in the ’18 class, Tanner felt he did not get enough attention from coaches. Tanner’s freshman year only added to people doubting him. His first collegiate drive ended with a ball sailing through his hands and into the other teams receiver’s hands for a 70-yard touchdown. Doubt from everyone grew. That is exactly why Tanner had such a successful career. People doubted his abilities, but he never did. Tanner worked harder than everyone because he had a chip on his shoulder to prove people wrong. He was tired of being overlooked and counted out, so he changed his narrative. Tanner had an unbelievable career because he put in the time in the film room, weight room, and practice field. You do not become great overnight, and Tanner is the perfect testament to that.
To be surrounded by the nation’s most admirable 18-23 year olds and stand out head and shoulders above most speaks to Tanner’s willingness to outwork everyone else. Football is arguably the most demanding sport on campus. It requires 40-plus hours a week of on-the-field training, film study, physical therapy, lifting weights—oh, and more film study. On top of all of this training, Tanner still had enough energy and grit to be an excellent student. Excellent student is not an exaggeration. He is an Academic All-American while taking applied math classes, which, by the way, is not the easiest major.
Most athletes cannot work 80-100 hours a week during the summer, find time for mentoring younger players, and train for the upcoming season, But that is exactly what Tanner Lee did last summer. Not only did he excel at his internship role at JP Morgan (earning a return offer), but he also managed to train for the upcoming season, which resulted in an All-Ivy selection and team MVP performance. Because training and working were not enough to have on his plate, Tanner spent numerous hours working with younger guys on the team to ensure they were well-prepared for their upcoming job applications and then interviews.
Tanner’s consistency on and off the field is his most admirable trait. You know what you are going to get from Tanner every day. Whether you are having an off day at practice because it has been a long week, or you have a math problem set due the next day and it is midnight, if you ask for help, there will be no hesitation from Tanner. He constantly wants to help everyone around him, and he consistently brings his best to everything he does.
Tanner Lee—All-Conference football player, All-American academic, and All-(fill in the blank). Clearly he is a talented guy, but the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet or the report cards—his character, work ethic, leadership, ability to motivate, love, sense of humor—are the things that make him an unbelievable man, teammate, and friend.
Thank you Tanner for showing me how to outwork everyone, how to be consistent, and how to be a great friend. Love you.