BYU football: Austin Lee preparing for his final game after a steady and highly effective career
Austin Lee has played an invaluable role for the Cougar defense throughout his three-year career in the program.
PROVO — BYU safeties coach Preston Hadley hasn’t had much time to think about what it’s going to take to replace Austin Lee, but the prospect doesn’t exactly excite him.
Lee is currently going through his final practice sessions in Provo before leaving to finish out his BYU career when the team takes on Hawaii in the Christmas Eve bowl game. He’s doing as much taking the lead among his position group, and indeed the entire defense, much like he’s done throughout the 2019 season.
It’s a role Lee is perfectly suited for, as he’s shown throughout his BYU career.
“He’s the guy every coach wants to coach. He’s the type of kid that makes my job worth it,” Hadley said. “That’s a tough guy to lose after this year, and I really hate thinking about not having him here. You just don’t replace guys like that.”
“He’s the guy every coach wants to coach. He’s the type of kid that makes my job worth it. That’s a tough guy to lose after this year, and I really hate thinking about not having him here. You just don’t replace guys like that.” — BYU safeties coach Preston Hadley on Austin Lee
Throughout the 2019 season, the BYU defense has experienced its share of ups and downs due to injury issues at most every position, among other factors. But Lee has provided a steady constant, playing the back end of the defense at his starting safety spot.
The Alta High School product has produced game-in and game-out, only sitting out BYU’s game over UMASS, providing standout play throughout.
But as good as Lee has been on the field, his work off the field is what truly sets him apart.
“No one prepares harder than Austin and no one watches more film,” Hadley said. “It’s off the field where he’s the most valuable, which is saying something because you all have seen how good he is on it.”
Lee will take the field for the final time on Christmas Eve, playing in the SoFi Hawaii Bowl in what has proved a very successful stint in Provo.
Having transferred to BYU from Utah after serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Oklahoma, Lee has proved a big contributor in all three of his years for Hadley and the Cougar secondary. He’s proved versatile, but perhaps most of all consistent in his role as the last line of defense.
“I just try and do whatever the coaches ask me to do and watch enough film to build confidence so I can perform well,” Lee said. “Being a senior, I just try and take a leadership responsibility — especially with some of the younger guys.”
His approach has proved invaluable to the overall production of the defensive unit.
As could well be imagined, Lee’s focus is as sharp as ever heading into his final go playing for the Cougars in the Hawaii Bowl. Following practice sessions, the senior reflected on what the game means to him as a senior who has contributed so heavily to the team’s success.
“This game is obviously important to our program and for us,” Lee said. “You only get so many chances to play football, so having another opportunity to be together — as a team and as seniors — it’s a blessing.”
Lee’s fellow seniors on the defense include safety Dayan Ghanwoloku, linebacker Austin Kafentzis and linemen JJ Nwigwe and Trajan Pili, among just a few others. Although it’s not a large group of seniors, it’s a group that’s proven effective and relatively successful.
“When I think of our seniors, I think of a lot of leadership,” Lee said. “... A lot of relentless leaders who show it on the field.”
Where Lee goes from here is wide open, although Hadley strongly believes his starting free safety will find success in any pursuit, even outside of football.
“Guys with his type of character and work ethic always find success,” Hadley said. “Like I said, it’s been a huge blessing for me to have been able to coach him and just to be associated with him. He’s a big credit to this program and who we are and try to be.”