Linebacker Marquel Lee
April 29, 2017, is a day that Oakland Raiders rookie linebacker Marquel Lee will never forget.
Not only was it the day that his NFL dream came to fruition, it was also the first time he saw his father cry.
You see, when the Oakland Raiders selected Marquel in the fifth round (No. 168 overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft, not only did Cory Lee's son officially become a professional football player, he was also now a part of the organization the elder Lee had supported all through the younger's life.
"My dad is a diehard Raiders fan, so he was really excited about that," said Marquel when asked about draft day. "That was the first time seeing my father cry, so it was a pretty emotional moment for him, and for myself as well, to be a part of the team that he always loved, and to go out there and represent his name on that team."
After an impressive college career at Wake Forest, the Raiders rookie linebacker – like the rest of the nine-man draft class – will be asked to come in, learn, and compete, regardless of where they were selected, or what position they play.
"We're not going to treat any of these young men differently," Head Coach Del Rio said during Rookie Minicamp. "They're all going to come in here with an opportunity to learn our system. How we do things, how we function. Come in and express themselves to their fullest. Be who they are. Learn our system. Learn what it looks like to be a great teammate."
As far as life on the field for Lee, the dynamic linebacker is getting up to speed, and the transition from college to the pros has been a relatively smooth one for him, without too many drastic differences from when he was the middle linebacker at Wake Forest.
Well, save one - he's had to adjust to controlling a huddle.
"We didn't huddle in college," Lee explained. "Just having that command; I've always been a leader, had good leadership skills, throughout college I was the leader at Mike linebacker for our team, but I think I just have to bring those skills to the pros, and sharpen those tools that I have."
Key to sharpening those skills will be learning from the veterans already in place on the Raiders defense, and with players like defensive end Khalil Mack and outside linebacker Bruce Irvin in the defensive meeting rooms, Lee is certainly a willing pupil.
"It's been on my mind a lot, just being that guy that can't play like a rookie," Lee said. "You can't be. You can't operate like a rookie right now, you have to operate like you're a pro, like you're a vet, like you've been here before, and just learning the ropes from the guys that are in here, just trying to do my best to contribute to this team."
What that contribution ends up being in his rookie season remains to be seen, Lee, who will don No. 55, the same number Del Rio wore in his playing days, is looking forward to embracing whatever challenges come his way.
"I definitely know my responsibility of what I have to do to contribute to the team, and what level I need to be at to do that, and I feel like I'm going to take the challenge on real well," Lee said. "I mean, it's a challenge, and I've always been up for challenges; it's something I expect to thrive in."