PLANO, Texas -- Derek Lee started the year as a receiver for the Dallas Vigilantes, but he's happy to hear he has his "slash" back. Lee, as well as teammates Duke Pettijohn and Will Pettis, were taught to play Arena Football on both sides of the ball.
In recent weeks, Vigilantes interim coach James Fuller has been giving Lee snaps at linebacker, and it's paid dividends for the WR/LB. And after his second interception of the year last week, the slash in his position is there to stay.
"I've been a little nicked up all season and I just got back to where I was feeling more like myself," Lee said. "And it has made a difference on the field."
Lee was first-team All-Ironman with the Georgia Force in 2006 before the league suspended operations. AFL rules used to state all but two players had to play both ways (or "ironman" style) and it was considered a point of pride to be dominant on both sides of the ball. Now teams are allowed free substitution, but some players still play on both sides of the ball depending on situations or skill sets.
The "Jack" linebacker, or the coverage linebacker, is played similarly to a free safety in other leagues and fits Lee's skill set well.
He looks more likely to dunk a basketball than stuff a run in the red zone, but Lee's nose for the ball has made him a fit in coverage. Plus, his wingspan at 6-5 covers a lot of a crowded, 85-feet wide arena field.
"Having that big body out there is huge, he knows the game and he knows where we're weak defensively," Fuller said.
His two picks this year in just four games starting are second only to the three he had in his All-Ironman season, but he's hoping to match that number this week against Chicago.
"I'm looking forward to trying to get another pick this week," Lee said.
The Chicago Rush (10-4) will enter Saturday night's game having won six of their last eight. The first game of that stretch was a 63-56 win in Dallas on May 22. In that game, Rush receiver Nichiren Flowers caught 11 balls for 168 yards and three scores.
But Lee wasn't prowling the secondary in that game.
"[Lee] has been picking his game up a little bit and we're getting a little more defensively from him," Fuller said.
If Dallas (1-12) is to pull off a considerable upset and end its 10-game losing streak, it'll need quality play from Lee on offense (where he leads the team in receiving yards) as well as a superior defensive effort.
Fuller thinks he may get it after a strong showing in a 56-34 loss to a good Tampa Bay team. He said he was pleased with his team's play and enthusiasm in the game.
"Chicago has got a good team," Lee said. "But I feel like we're as good as any team in this league if we play like it. We just don't end up putting everything together for all four quarters."
Josh Davis is an ESPNDallas.com intern and a writer for TCU's student newspaper, the Daily Skiff.