Eric Lee Jr. - Aug. 31, 2019

Eric Lee Jr. (6) celebrates with teammates following an interception during the game against South Alabama on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

When senior safety Eric Lee Jr. committed to Nebraska in 2014, it was with hopes of becoming the Huskers’ next ball-hawking defensive back. 

Lee Jr.’s Nebraska journey may not have gone exactly as he then intended it to, but if anything, that made Saturday’s performance that much sweeter.

“Since I committed here back in 2014, being able to finally reach this day and make the plays I’m capable of out on the field, to showcase it on this level, I’ve been waiting for that my whole life,” Lee Jr. said after the game.

In a game devoid of much offensive production, it was Nebraska’s fifth-year senior who came up big. With junior safety Deontai Williams off the field due to injury, Lee Jr. jumped a route and made his first career interception, taking the turnover 38 yards for a score. 

Even after his first pick at Nebraska, Lee Jr. wasn’t done for the day. He was all over the field on Saturday, making four tackles, breaking up a pass and earning his second interception of the day late in the fourth quarter — helping keep the Nebraska lead intact.

If not for the support of his father, Lee Jr.’s big day Saturday might have never happened. He admitted to having thoughts of leaving Nebraska as he was buried on the depth chart as a freshman and junior, but his father told him to keep grinding.

“When I called him after the game,” Lee Jr. said, “he was in tears just saying how proud he was of me.”

Eric Lee Sr. was not the only Husker to take pride in his son’s big day. Head coach Scott Frost praised both Lee Jr. and junior safety Marquel Dismuke for their perseverance through difficulties, saying the pair had good games Saturday.

“They’ve been in my bad graces a little going back to when I first got here,” Frost said. “They’re doing everything the right way now.”

A popular figure in the defensive backs room, Lee Jr. was credited by both senior cornerback Lamar Jackson and sophomore cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt for his performance after the game.

“He had a great day,” Taylor-Britt said. “He was already good at fall camp; he just showed up today … to see Eric Lee ball today made us all happy.”

Indeed, Lee Jr.’s two-interception day may have won Nebraska the game, but it also won him a contest against Taylor-Britt to see which player could produce more interceptions.

“Yeah he got me, but I’ll try again next game,” Taylor-Britt said.

For Lee Jr., there are no guarantees about what next week’s game will hold, as Williams may be back from injury and ready to reclaim his starting role. But for now, those thoughts can take a back seat as Lee Jr.’s big day will live on in his memory for a long time.

“It makes you want to go hard and harder every day,” Lee Jr. said.

sports@dailynebraskan.com