Darren Lee, for years a stalwart on the Boise State special teams units, is making the most of his opportunities this season for the Broncos.
Thor’s weapon of choice? A hammer. Triple H uses one as well. If there’s a hero on the Broncos who uses the hammer as their weapon of choice, it’s senior linebacker Darren Lee.
Lee has been making his mark in 2016 not only in special teams play, but more importantly, when the Broncos defense takes the field.
The hard work, and an unfortunate injury to junior Joe Martarano, pushed Lee into the starting lineup. Not that he was going to be riding the pine this season even if Martarano was healthy.
Bringing a wealth of experience, Lee has risen to the occasion through the season’s first three games. He has accumulated 20 tackles, including ten against Washington State. Of the Broncos 13 sacks, he has 1.5 of them. And his touchdown after stripping the ball from Oregon State receiver sealed the game last Saturday against the Beavers.
Lee is no stranger to playing hard. Over the years at Boise State, he has led the team onto the field carrying “The Hammer” multiple times. Last season, he even earned the right to keep the sledge hammer after being named the team’s Special Teams Player of the Year.
Ben Weaver, Tanner Vallejo and Lee have churned out tackles left and right this season for the Boise State defense. The three of them are helping lead a unit that is allowing only 72.3 rushing yards per game (on a meager 2.3 yards per carry).
Without Lee’s presence, it’s safe to say those numbers might not be as good. He embodies the work ethic often on display at Boise State and, even without Martarano’s injury, might have seen significant playing time in the linebacker rotation.
And it’s a good thing he’s stepped in so seamlessly. Injuries to Martarano, Vallejo, and safety Evan Tyler (lost for the season), have battered the unit in the early going. Other players have been dinged up and suspended, providing the opportunity for Lee and others to slide right into Boise State’s “next man up” mantra.
The play of the linebackers, Lee included, has taken the pressure off a young defensive line. In turn, the entire defense has responded by averaging over four sacks per game and coming up with huge plays when needed. Say, a huge sack or defensive touchdown against Oregon State. Or keeping a high-scoring offense in Washington State under the 30-point mark.
Lee has shown so far what hard work and a little patience can do. That sort of leadership and experience radiates on the field.
October will hold a huge test for Lee and the Broncos. Hopefully Martarano and Vallejo will return soon, but in the meantime Lee will continue to lead the way.
And when they do return to action? Lee will still be there, giving it his all and doing what perhaps he does best: bringing the hammer.