Super Bowl champion Lee honored by hometown
Former Maben High School teammates Donald Lee, left, and Patrick Burchfield share a moment during Saturday's Donald Lee Day ceremony. (Joel Coleman/SDN)
Donald Lee really didn't want all of the focus to be on him when it came to the town of Maben having a special day in his honor.
View more articles in:
Instead, the Super Bowl champion player from the Green Bay Packers chose to cast the attention on the up and coming young people of the small Oktibbeha County town.
Lee emphasized during the program at C.L. Hamberlin Field Saturday afternoon that anyone can accomplish great things if they chose the right path.
"I just thank God for blessing me with the ability to reach out to different people young and old, continue to do great things and try to help out some young kids like coach (Kenny) Williamson did for me," Lee said.
Lee called Williamson, his football coach at Maben High School, the foundation for his football career.
Williamson was one of the many speakers who recognized Lee during the hour and a half program. Also making comments were county supervisor Marvell Howard, former Maben quarterback Patrick Burchfield, former Mississippi State quarterback Wayne Madkin, MSU director of player personnel and high school relations Rockey Felker and former Mississippi Lt. Governor and current MSU executive director of campus operations Amy Tuck.
Maben mayor Larry Pruitt was the moderator for the event and was glad to see the nice weather.
"We couldn't ask the good Lord for a more beautiful day," Pruitt said. "We're thrilled to have the support of the people and fans. Being from a small community, it seems there's nothing to do, but there's always something to do. You can always be successful.
"For a small community, we have a rich heritage. We have a former Lt. Governor from here, a former Governor Tom Bailey and now Donald Lee. This program was to inspire some young people and show that no matter where you come from, or how small a community or town you come from if you put your mind to it, you can be successful."
Following the program, there was a parade through downtown Maben and the day was capped off with a party at W.O. Bill Shivers Park.
Several presentations were made to Lee, but the one that caught him by the most surprise was a statue that resembled a Heisman Trophy.
"I won the Heisman Trophy today," Lee said with a grin. "They presented that to me. It was a big surprise and I'll keep that forever.
"I thought winning the Super Bowl was a dream come true and I still feel like I'm dreaming with all of the people of Maben coming out and support me today. It's really special to come from a small town and we're like family here."
During Williamson's comments, he had all of Lee's teammates to surround him on the playing surface at Maben one more time.
Wherever football takes Lee, Burchfield remains in contact with him.
"On game day, I always send him a text, wish him good luck and let him know to hang in there," Lee said. "I'm proud of him and glad his team won the Super Bowl. This is a huge day for him and I'm elated to see all of the guys we played high school football with. All of his family is here and pretty much the entire town. I'm glad to be here to celebrate with him."
Madkin and Lee were both part of the Bulldog family under coach Jackie Sherrill that had quite a bit of success which included victories in the Peach Bowl and Independence Bowl.
It was during that time that Madkin got close to Lee.
"I've been knowing Donald Lee for a long time," Madkin said. "When you play together, you spend a lot of time in the locker room together. It's like having an extended brother.
"He's a great guy and I wouldn't have missed this for the world. When they called me and said they were doing this, I knew I had to be here. I'm glad to be able to share this day with Donald Lee."
Williamson has had a front-row seat in watching the football progression of Lee from high school, college and now professional football.
The two men became the best of friends and remain in constant contact.
It amazes Williamson how far Lee has come.
"During his senior season, we had 17 kids on the team and were probably one of the smallest schools in the country to play football and he goes on to play in the Super Bowl," Williamson said. "What else can you do?"
Williamson got to attend the Super Bowl in Dallas between Lee's Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In conversation with some of the Green Bay coaches, Williamson got a sense of what Lee meant to the organization.
"From every coach you ask, you get the same message that you heard today and that deals with professional and being team-oriented," Williamson said. "He's not worried about his accolades and at the end of the day, it's about winning and giving God the credit."
When the Packers had to release Lee over the last few days, Williamson said it was a personnel matter that the coaches weren't in favor of doing.
"The coach called, left and message and was almost in tears," Williamson said. "He said, we're a better team with you, I'm a better man because of you, we hate losing you, but you'll move on. Someone will sign him and it may be a blessing for him."
Lee doesn't know what the future holds, especially with the labor trouble in the National Football League that has led to a lockout and work stoppage.
He has committed to putting the situation in God's hands.
"It's tough to say right now because neither side has reached an agreement, but I trust in God," Lee said. "Whatever happens is meant to happen.
"Whether we're playing football or not, football is not the biggest part of me. I have so much more to give to young kids. Whether we're playing or not, that's OK as long as I get to be around the kids and be a part of the community."