He’s been the hero leading fourth-quarter comebacks and the scapegoat throwing touchdowns to the wrong team. He has been booed when leaving the field a starter and cheered when entering it a backup.
Jarrett Lee has seen it all as he enters his senior year as an LSU quarterback.
And he’s stayed the course.
He could have transferred to a smaller school after any of the previous three seasons and been given a more legitimate shot at running somebody’s offense. But he was determined to finish his college career the same place he started.
“I didn’t come here to transfer,” Lee said. “A lot of people would have, but I just didn’t want to. I came here for one reason. I wanted to finish out here. I wanted to get a degree here.”
So it is that Lee, for the third straight season, will enter the fall as Jordan Jefferson’s backup. That’s assuming he holds off Zach Mettenberger, who will be even more popular with LSU’s fan base than Lee if Jefferson begins to struggle.
Mettenberger is the hot new thing on the LSU practice fields and the program’s future at quarterback.
But with nine career starts and four years of college experience, Lee is the kind of backup plenty of teams would love to have.
“Jordan’s obviously the starter right now, and he’s doing good things,” Lee said. “I just try to do my part when my name’s called. I feel like I’ve done a good job of that in the past. I have to stay positive and just help out when I can.”
There was a time, of course, when it looked like Lee could be a four-year starter.
Forced into action after junior-to-be Ryan Perrilloux’s ill-timed dismissal from the team, Lee threw 14 touchdown passes in 2008 while making eight starts. But the redshirt freshman was remembered more for the interceptions he threw.
Opponents picked off 16 of Lee’s passes that year — and returned seven for scores.
Finally, after Lee suffered an ankle injury in a loss to Ole Miss, Jefferson earned the first of his 27 career starts the following week.
Lee made some memorable cameos last season, coming off the bench to lead a game-winning drive against Florida and playing a key role in victories over Tennessee and Alabama. Yet he wasn’t steady enough to win the starting job back from Jefferson, who ramped up his play late in the year after hearing boos rain down during a number of early home games.
Lee finished his junior season with modest statistics, completing 54 of 89 passes for 573 yards and two touchdowns.
He isn’t sure what his role will be as Jefferson, one of nine returning offensive starters, prepares for what coaches and teammates expect to be a breakout senior year. But the 6-foot-2, 206-pound Texan has kept in tip-top shape and continues to make the most of his reps at practice.
If the Tigers need Lee’s help in a key situation, it probably won’t be anything he hasn’t seen before.