Pre-med major Eric Lee finds football, school balance
Marek Mazurek | Thursday, November 20, 2014
Eric Lee is the embodiment of a student-athlete.
While the senior receiver spends much of his time practicing and playing for a nationally-ranked program, the science pre-professional major is also preparing to head to medical school after graduation.
During his high school career at Dowling Catholic in West Des Moines, Iowa, Lee maintained a 4.1 GPA while competing as an all-conference athlete in three different sports.
For Lee, though, football quickly became his sport of choice over baseball and basketball as he looked to college.
“I think it was more so the opportunity,” Lee said of making the choice to play football. “I didn’t have a favorite out of the sports — I liked them all. I played them all pretty well. I think football opened doors here. I could come to camp my freshman year, and that was a big part of it. It was more the doors that [football] opened for me.”After narrowing down his choice of sport to football, the question that remained was where would Lee play.
“I wasn’t a huge Notre Dame fan growing up,” he said. “I never really followed them; I never really thought about them until I started coming out of high school wanting to go to a good academic school, and [Notre Dame] definitely popped on the radar. That’s when I started thinking about them for school.”
The 5-foot-8, 170-pound Lee gained a preferred walk-on status as a freshman and has been part of the team for all four years of his Notre Dame career as a slot receiver. Lee said he considers himself fortunate to have had the opportunity he has had.
“It’s been a pretty cool experience,” he said. “Coming in as a freshman was a pretty lucky opportunity to get the full four years in — a lot of guys don’t get that chance. It’s been a long process, but it’s definitely been good.”
Throughout his career as a Division I athlete, Lee said he still find time to excel in his studies.
“It’s pretty tough, especially as a pre-med major,” he said. “That’s hard in and of itself, and on top of football, it’s a challenge. I have to give up a lot of social time, but other students don’t get to run out of the tunnel on Saturdays, so I feel like it’s worth it for me. I’ve learned to manage my time pretty well.”
Even Lee’s favorite football memory points to his academic excellence. Lee was a member of the “Green Beret” his sophomore and junior years, where he would stand on the sideline and give the signals for the play to his teammates on the field.
“One of my favorite memories was the Green Beret,” he said. “It was me, [graduate student running back] Tyler Plantz and [former receiver] Nick Fitzpatrick running signals into the game my sophomore and junior years. … We had a really good time doing that. I also got in the Rice game, the season opener this year. I was in on Malik’s [Zaire] long run and Greg’s [Bryant] first touchdown playing slot receiver, so that was also pretty exciting; the whole family was there, so that was pretty cool.”
Lee said his post-graduation plans are much different than being part of the Green Beret or lining up as a slot receiver.
“I’m applying to medical school right now, and that’s a stressful process,” he said. “I have to interview [soon]. It’s been a long process, but hopefully I’ll get in somewhere by the next couple months.”
Looking past college, Lee said he plans to carry his Notre Dame football experience with him as he goes to med school and beyond.
“Being part of the team is something I’m extremely proud of,” he said. “I would never introduce myself as someone who played football at Notre Dame, but I’m sure it will come up at some point. I’d definitely represent and wear some Notre Dame gear at some point. I wouldn’t hesitate to tell people I was a part of something this special.”
Just like his major, Lee took a scientific approach to answering how he thinks he will feel on his last game.
“I expect to feel a little colder than usual just because it will be late November,” he said.
“Well I don’t know,” he said. “You do something a lot of times, and you start taking it for granted, but I think that [game] will really sink in. I’ll really look out there and realize how lucky I’ve been the past four years and just try to embrace the moment.”