David Lee ’95 – You can’t make this up: from 8th string to stardom in Little Three play

Eph Legends
Eph Legends

Eight. The number of consecutive years before he arrived at Williams in which running back David Lee started every football game he played. Lee played under Eph legend Dick Farley who would not play freshmen unless there was absolutely no other choice, so Lee didn't get on the field his first season. He did get a lot of carries versus the Eph defense in practice during his first fall, and at one point safety Bodhi Amos hit Lee so hard Amos' hand went through Lee's helmet and made Lee's left eye swell up and close for a week.

Eight. Early his sophomore year, he was by his own calculation 8th string after tearing his hip flexor in preseason. "I thought it was going to be another year of not touching the field," Lee says, "so I decided to just keep my head down and keep working hard." Whether Lee was actually 8th string, there was no other running back listed behind him.

David Lee '95

Eight. Number of games in a season for the Ephs. Lee finally got a chance to get on the field in game six his sophomore year at Hamilton. "There were a number of injuries and when our running back fumbled on our 15-yard line, I think it was Farley who put me in," says Lee. "I proceeded to rush for 139 yards [on 20 carries, scoring one TD], surprising every coach on our sideline. I remember Renzie Lamb [assistant coach and head lacrosse coach] telling me to call my mom immediately and let her know how I'd done. I think he was in shock." The Ephs lost, however, 34-33, when a two-point conversion pass attempt was batted away.

Farley remembers that the Friday before the Hamilton game Lee came to him and told him that he was ready to play if needed. "We were in pretty desperate shape with injuries, but I honestly didn't think we were that desperate," states Farley. "He was like a good Boy Scout – always prepared. He wasn't flashy, but he got the job done by running hard all the time."

Wesleyan was the next to see David Lee in person, at on Weston Field at Homecoming. Lee, making his first start, laid on the Cards a 172-yard effort [on 28 carries] featuring three TDs and led the Ephs to their 500th win all-time, 28-23.

The next week at Amherst Lee notched his favorite Eph football memory the first time he toted the leather on Pratt Field. "Dan Gill intercepted Amherst on their first series," recalls Lee.  "Our first play was an off tackle run, which I took 36 yards for a touchdown. My dad and mom were in the stands and I knew how much it meant for them." Lee rambled for 119 yards on 19 carries that day and rushed for one TD.

Eight. TDs scored by David Lee in the four Little Three games he started in his career, two games each versus Wesleyan and Amherst. He averaged 154 yards rushing per game (6.7 yards per carry) and two TDs in those Little Three contests. Makes you wonder what the running backs that were 1st through 7th string could have done.

Eight. Seasons David Lee competed for the Ephs. A two-sport athlete, he also played middie on the lacrosse team all four years.

A political economy major, Lee remembers his favorite Eph professor, nationally acclaimed mathematician Ed Burger, getting, "the Williams radio station to play the Eagles song 'Take it to the Limit' in our calculus class the day he was introducing limits."

"I lived in Tokyo right out of Williams and taught English," notes Lee. "This is where I got the bug to try teaching again later in life. When I came back to the States, I got a job with the Wall Street firm Alex Brown in 1997, then hired over to Morgan Stanley, where I stayed for three years. My boss and our group got hired away by Deutsche Bank where I worked until 2007. I resigned that March, tired of the hours and lack of quality in my life and took the trip of a lifetime to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Nepal, complete with a month long trek in the Himalayas up to the Everest base camp. I then finished up with a month in Bali.  

"Returning home I knew I wanted to teach so I started to sub at numerous schools in the Bay area. I got lucky with a maternity leave at Town School (an all boys independent school in San Francisco), which evolved into a full-time position the following year."

He just finished his third year of teaching 5th- and 6th-grade math and his third year of coaching the U15 lacrosse team.

Eight. Grade of boy's lacrosse team Lee coaches. He strives to affect his players as Dick Farley affected him. "Farley was a coach who was passionate about football, studied the films, knew what he was doing, worked hard, and earned the respect of his players because of this," says Lee. "I think of Coach Farley when I coach my team as to how I want my players to view me as a coach.

"These life lessons of sticking with it even when I was getting beaten up and was the 8th string running back and finally getting a chance to shine is something that I try to impart to my players today. It's demoralizing not getting your chance to play and getting roughed up at practice everyday, but I learned through hard work and persistence that you can get what you want."

Lee, a native of Wayland, Mass., came about 135 miles to attend Williams, but his trip from the bottom of the depth chart to the top was far tougher and longer, and he completed that journey only because he would not let himself stop trying to do his best.