We recently spoke with CIS football announcer and CKNW 980 Sports Director Jim Mullin about the BC Lions recent signing of first round draft pick and local boy Jamall Lee. Lee signed a 2 year deal with the club on Monday after failing to land a contract offer from an NFL club.
BCLD: Jim, thanks for taking the time to give us a little background on Jamall Lee. You have a good understanding of Lee’s college career as an announcer and CIS football enthusiast. Can you tell our readers what kind of player Lee is, and what his strengths and weaknesses might be?
Jim Mullin: Lee was an outstanding running back out of Terry Fox Secondary. Instead of following in his father’s footsteps and going to the Simon Fraser program, which was a basket case of an operation, he chose to go to Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec.
In four years he led the QUFL and CIS in rushing twice. He holds the Quebec Conference career mark for rushing yards with 4,296 which puts him in select company nationally. He’s third on the all-time list, ahead of Jesse Lumsden and behind Eric LaPointe. He was the QUFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2007, in a year where the Laval Rouge et Or were dominant in every aspect of the game.
The NFL took notice when he set new records at the CFL evaluation camp in the spring. He ran a 40 yard dash in 4.39, which was quicker than anyone had ran at this year’s NFL combine. He also has a vertical jump of 44 inches (110 cm).
Judging by his running style, he may have the same handicap as Lumsden in that he hits the gaps too upright, leaving him prone to injury. He’s likely already made adjustments by his trial by fire with the Carolina Panthers.
BCLD: Wally Buono indicated that the club would like to try and turn Lee into a receiver, but that won’t be an option for this season. Does Lee have the ability in your mind to thrive at that position in the CFL?
Jim Mullin: His speed would give him a shot to be an effective inside receiver who could attack the seams, and he has the physical attributes to handle the contact.
However, after having talked to Wally Buono on a regular basis, he’s indicated to me that his thoughts have changed on Lee. He sees him as a running back/kickoff returner at this point. When you see what Calvin McCarty has added to the Eskimos lineup as a back with good hands – when he’s healthy – who could blame the Lions for changing their mind?
BCLD: Obviously Lee will take another shot at the NFL at some point, but he’s a Lion until the end of next season. If he was converted to a receiver, would that help or hinder his NFL aspirations, where he was trying out at running back this year?
Jim Mullin: His focus is here. He’s happy to be playing in his hometown even if practice money in the NFL is worth more than a CFL rookie deal. The two-plus-an option deal gives him a window to explore the NFL at the end of the 2010 season.
I think that setting him up solely as a receiver would have a negative impact on his NFL possibilities to be a starter on offense. But it certainly wouldn’t hinder his chance of becoming a specialist as a kickoff or punt returner. Stefan Logan showed us how that worked.
BCLD: Lee worked out for several NFL teams but wasn’t offered a contract, despite being a late cut of the Carolina Panthers. What will Lee need to do to get more attention next time he tries, if he chooses to?
Jim Mullin: Absorb technique and adapt to the speed of the professional game here, which I am confident he will do. His agent Zeke Sandhu really hustled for him between the Carolina cut and the Lions signing. He knocked on a lot of NFL doors. Lee’s testing numbers were his calling card. Pittsburgh and Seattle liked what they saw, but were they really going to add someone at this stage of the year?
If he registers good numbers on specials, he will get another look.
BCLD: Thanks again Jim, is there anything else you can let our readers know about Jamall Lee?
Jim Mullin: His dad, Orville – the last Canadian to rush for 1,000 yards – is proud of his son.
Jim Mullin speaks with Jamall Lee: Jamall Lee Interview – CKNW 980