‘Dark Knight’ Spotlight: Lee flourishes in senior season

Senior receiver Jay Lee runs into the end zone during the Bears’ game against West Virginia on Oct. 1, 2015, at McLane Stadium. Lee has caught 29 passes and seven touchdowns this season. Photo credit: Sarah Pyo

The Baylor offense is full of explosive athletes, big names and elite playmakers. With the recent string of elite receivers to come through the Baylor football program, many expect great things year in and year out from the pass attack.

Teammates call junior receiver Corey Coleman “Superman” and sophomore KD Cannon “Flash.”

Coleman has been one of the best players in college football this season. He has 61 catches for 1,229 yards and 20 touchdowns.

After a sensational freshman campaign last year, KD Cannon also returned to the Bears. Cannon has not produced like last season, but has still been a steady target, racking up 34 catches for 564 yards and four touchdowns.

Among these two big name receivers, one guy usually gets overlooked by both fans and defenses. After all, what would the Justice League be without its “Batman”?

Jay Lee, a senior receiver from Allen has been a great talent for the Bears and has stepped into a more prominent role this season. His nickname, “Batman,” could not be any more fitting.

Lee has caught 29 balls for 627 yards and is second on the team with seven touchdowns. Yet opponents have still forgotten about him multiple times this season. And Lee has made them pay.

With SMU following Coleman and Cannon all over the field in the season opener, Lee caught three balls for 70 yards.

All three of those catches were for touchdowns. Lee showcased that power and strength he had worked on, breaking a tackle on a curl route to score.

Lee recently accepted an invitation to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl game after the season, a testament to Lee’s ability and credibility among the nation’s best.

It took years for Lee to realize his own potential, though.

“He comes to work every day. I just don’t think he sees his full potential. He’s got a lot of potential; he just needs to see it. And I think every year, he’s started to tap in more and more,” said then-quarterback Bryce Petty in 2014.

Lee was the only receiver to sign with the Bears in the 2011 class and was immediately redshirted.

In 2011, the Bears receiving corps boasted the likes of Kendall Wright (Tennessee Titans), Terrance Williams (Dallas Cowboys), Josh Gordon (Cleveland Browns), Lanear Sampson and Tevin Reese, along with Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood.

Lee was put on scout team that year, gaining reps against the first team defense.

During that time, Lee saw his scout team duty as a breeding ground for gaining strength and confidence on the field.

“Terrance and Lanear told me how they did their scout team time, and how they just balled-out every time they went out there,” Lee said. “So when I went over there, I just tried to give them the best look. And anything in the air, I just went up and got.”

Coming into the 2012 season, Lee looked primed to join the rotation with Gordon and Wright both departing for the NFL.

However, Lee suffered a strained posterior cruciate ligament and ended the season with zero catches.

Again in 2013, Lee wound up in the bottom of the rotation, only managing 22 catches for 309 yards and one score. Yet Lee flashed the skills that head coach Art Briles had envisioned when they signed him.

“We weren’t going to take a guy unless we really thought he could contribute,” Briles said. “But with [Lee], we certainly felt like he could do that. He just fits what we’re looking for. He’s big, he’s rangy, he’s fast and he has a lot of desire.”

In the Fiesta Bowl against UCF, Lee finished strong by catching five balls for 80 yards. Lee’s 50-yard catch helped the Bears tie the game at 28, but he was stopped at the 1-yard line.

Last season, Lee really came onto the scene when multiple Baylor receivers went down with injuries. In the first three games of 2014, Lee was leading the team in receptions, catching 19 balls for 294 yards and four scores.

The Fiesta Bowl play motivated Lee all offseason to get stronger, faster and better.

“I just thought back when we were doing sled pulls. We were pulling 90 to 100 pounds for 35 yards. And I was thinking in my head, ‘Just keep your feet moving and let’s drive to the finish line,’” Lee said.

The fruits of that effort have spoken loudly for Lee the past two seasons. After finishing 2014 with 41 receptions for 633 yards and six scores, Lee has continued to grow this season.

“I had to make up for what happened in the second quarter. Coaches believed in me, and I believed in myself, and I had to go make some plays,” Lee said.

Lee has thrived this year, and even against a good Oklahoma defense that triple-teamed Coleman multiple times on Saturday night, Lee made plays to get the Bears’ drives rolling. Lee finished with three catches for 59 yards and a score. Although the Bears ended up losing the game, Lee’s timely plays helped keep Baylor in the game and kept hope burning in the fourth quarter.

With freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham scrambling outside of the pocket, he found Lee in the end zone on a ball that Lee had to go up and get.

Lee came down with the ball despite the traffic, cutting the Sooner lead to just 3 in the fourth quarter.

Lee showed he is not the same hesitant player he was when he joined the program.

With his ability, confidence and maturity, Lee is slowly turning into a next-level receiver just in time for his passing on from the collegiate level.

Because he has played in the shadow of some of the best receivers in the nation every season, the spotlight has eluded him until now.

This remaining stretch of his career is a great opportunity to prove exactly who and what he is.

“Coach Briles knows about me, but I feel like other people around the nation don’t know,” Lee said. “I just want to put that on game film and tape to let them know who I am.”

With Senior Bowl on the horizon, Lee has a special opportunity. He will no longer fly under the radar.