After a decorated prep career under center, Joey Lee makes the jump in college to receiver.
Jason Stormer | Sports Editor
Joey Lee has been a quarterback since he started playing organized football in seventh grade. Growing up in Dawson, Minn. and attending Dawson-Boyd High School from 2011–2014, Lee earned himself a MFCA All-Star selection his senior year, three appearances in the 1A state championship game and a state title in 2011. After high school, he decided to continue his football career at Bethel University.
“I first heard about Bethel when a former Dawson-Boyd quarterback chose Bethel, Josh Aakre,” Lee, now a sophomore, said. “When I was looking at schools, I looked at a number of MIAC schools but I knew I wanted to play at a school where we would be competitive every year.”
Lee would spend his freshman year learning under Erik Peterson, who was in his senior year. The plan was simple; like Peterson before him, Lee would take the reigns as a sophomore and lead the Royals into another era of strong quarterback play for years to come.
“He was on our list really early because we knew he was a fantastic quarterback,” quarterbacks coach Scott Kirchoff said.
Well, things don’t always go as planned. The Royals are benefitting from strong quarterback play this season with four games left on the schedule and Lee has contributed to that success, but not as quarterback.
As a wide receiver.
Lee came into camp this season as a quarterback, but it became increasingly clear that there was logjam at the position as the season approached. Senior Andrew Dzurik was an unexpected addition before the 2014 season after transferring from Division I Lafayette College in Easton, Penn. Junior Joe Carlson was also returning and new freshmen recruits, Trey Anderson and Matthew Anfinson, made for a total of five players competing for one starting spot.
Lee and Dzurik both were considered the top candidates for the starting job, but Dzurik eventually got the nod. Lee moved down to second on the depth chart, but after Anderson produced strong performances when Dzurik went down with an injury on September 12 in a 24–14 loss to Wartburg College, the job went to the freshman.
Lee was the odd man out, but the coaching staff wasn’t going to waste his talents.
“We knew we could use Joey at another spot,” Kirchoff said, adding that he is an “amazing” athlete.
As he was recruited by Bethel, Lee’s mobility and versatility stood out. During his career at Dawson-Boyd, Lee scored 16 rushing touchdowns and played defensive back, where he amassed 55 career tackles and even shouldered the punting responsibilities. In an act of foreshadowing, he even caught one pass for one yard his senior year.
The coaching staff knew Lee could contribute to the team, which has been dealing with injury issues with receivers all season. With his versatility in mind, the coaching staff found a solution for both Lee and the receivers.
“Coming from a quarterback’s position and transitioning to another spot on the offense, you kind of know everything,” Kirchoff said. “We knew that he could compete and get on the field, so we had the conversation with him.”
They gave him a choice; be a quarterback and not get chance to play or adapt.
“Initially I was a little disappointed because I had worked in hopes of playing quarterback, but coming into college, no matter where I chose to go, I knew position changes happened in college football,” Lee said.
Although the idea of no longer being a quarterback after many years disenchanted Lee, he accepted his new role because he feels like the team comes before anyone else.
“I was given the choice to switch, but I did not have to think long about it because I came to Bethel to play football, so if I can make an impact I am willing to give any position a shot,” Lee said.
Lee has appeared in four games since converting. He caught his first touchdown pass in a 49–3 victory versus St. Olaf on Sept 19. Two weeks later on Oct 3 in a losing effort against Concordia-Moorhead, 23–21, Lee hauled in 49 receiving yards and caught his second touchdown in the fourth quarter that brought the Royals within two points of the Cobbers.
It’s a small sample size, but Lee understands that changes like these take time and it’s a matter of learning as much as he can, as quick as he can.
“There have definitely been ups and downs this year and injuries to some of our main receivers have given me a chance to learn a bit on the fly, but the other receivers have been a huge help with teaching me the position,” Lee said. “Obviously the coaches have been a huge help as well.”