Amp Lee grew up just 85 miles away in Chipley. And when the time came to choose a college, the standout tailback had the chance to play for the team he watched while growing up, Florida State.
Lee was one of the Seminoles’ best running backs in school history. From 1989-91, he ran for 2,092 yards (12th on FSU’s all-time list) and had 30 career rushing touchdowns (tied for third with Devonta Freeman). Lee went on to play nine seasons in the NFL from 1992-2000.
The 42-year-old Lee will be inducted into FSU’s Athletics Hall of Fame along with versatile defensive star Aaron Carter, softball standout Jessica van der Linden and baseball star Jeremy Morris.
We caught up with Lee to talk about his FSU career and his induction.
What does it mean to go into the athletics Hall of Fame?
I was surprised but at the same time very proud, very humbled. I felt like I had a fairly productive career there. It was a phenomenal experience. I’m just a small-town country boy from Chipley. I was just always taught to work hard, try hard and compete hard. To be recognized by the Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame, that’s pretty awesome.
Did you follow Florida State growing up?
I was a Florida State guy. It was close to home plus I admired how they played. Probably with the exception of Deion (Sanders), they were all pretty low key and humble and disciplined with how they played. I thought that was a reflection of the coaching staff and the style of players they wanted and the type of players they wanted. But that’s not a knock on Deion either because he was obviously incredible. But he had a flair to him.
What was it like when coach Bobby Bowden met the family?
Coach (Mickey) Andrews had been to the school a number of times. But coach Bowden came to the house. It was nerve-wracking. It was pretty serious at that point when they sent him. But it was a great experience.
What was one of your favorite memories from your FSU career?
The first one was the Tulane game (1989, his freshman year). The first time I touched the ball, I scored (on a 6-yard TD run in the second quarter). And the first pass I caught a pass, I scored as well (on an 88-yard pass from Casey Weldon). For me it was rewarding and encouraging because being from a small town I wasn’t the most highly touted recruit coming in. Initially you try to get in and figure out where you stand, can you survive with that level of competition. To have that level of success my first game, it motivated me and made me feel good that I could compete at the collegiate level.
You are going to help start a tradition of speaking at FSU’s sod cemetery. Tell fans about that landmark 1991 road game, a 51-31 win by No. 1 FSU at No. 3 Michigan?
We were two of the top teams at the time and Terrell Buckley and Desmond Howard were the top defensive back-receiver matchup. It was a big game, going into Michigan with 100,000 fans. But we were ready. We were confident. We felt like our speed and style of play would be a little bit different. They play a little bit more of a power football game. They did have some moments. But Terrell set the pace early with the interception.
Sean Jackson, he was so fired up in the locker room that he was banging his head on the lockers. And I remember thinking, “Man!” I’m pretty calm and I’m ready to go but I’m also not the type that has to go and show it that way. And it wasn’t just little bitty taps against the locker, he went at it pretty good.
I got off to a good start, had a good rhythm going (he led the team with 122 rushing yards and TD runs of 44 and 5 as well as 79 receiving yards). I always loved those games, the big competition.
You loved to catch the ball, too. How did you use that to your advantage?
That’s something people think is a great skill but for me it was just something that I was able to do. Playing basketball so much helped with that. Hand-eye coordination. I played point guard. That’s something that I really didn’t have to think about much because I had done it so many times. I really didn’t see it as a special skill until I got to Florida State and realized where other running backs would struggle with catching the ball. Obviously it proved to be a good benefit and good skill and helped me at Florida State and throughout my NFL career.
What do you do now?
Teaching and coaching at Phoenix Country Day School. And I also have my own basketball club that I run. I coached in the United Football League (2009 with Las Vegas) and NFL Europe (2003 with Amsterdam and 2004 with Berlin), coached in high school, but my passion is basketball. I’ve been coaching sports since I retired (from the NFL).
What do you think of the program now?
There were some down times but I do feel they have made the transition. I feel like recruiting is back up to par. Clearly winning the national title, being ranked No. 1, they’re back. Winning helps with your recruiting and it shows.