Most true freshmen don't impact Kansas State's program from Game 1.
Linebacker Elijah Lee was an exception with a pair of sacks in his first collegiate game last season against Stephen F. Austin. The Missouri native went on to record 19 tackles and 4.5 sacks while playing a role as pass-rushing specialist as a true freshman. This season, the sophomore has taken over a starting linebacker role, leading the Wildcats with 20 tackles in three games. He took time to chat with ESPN.com this week about what he learned in 2014, his starting role and the best advice he's gotten since arriving on campus.
What did you learn last year that has helped this season?
Elijah Lee: Each game you get more experience and the more experience you have the comfortable you are playing and the more comfortable you are playing and that's when you start playing with the ability you do have instead of thinking all the time.
Do you remember when you started to get to that point?
Lee: I'd say probably halfway through last season. One of the older guys was like, "I know you're better than that. Whenever you don't have to think about things and just go out and play everything will fall into place.”
What was early last season like? Was it tough to get comfortable, were you nervous?
Lee: The first game was probably the toughest because I hadn't played my first college snap yet. Once I got my first two sacks and a forced fumble, I realized I was capable of doing stuff at this level.
Did you have a welcome-to-college-football moment?
Lee: Yeah, one the first series I got a sack and going into that game I was just thinking about getting a good pass-rush, not even getting a sack.
How is the first year being a starter?
Lee: I feel like it's going pretty well. I've made some mistakes but at the same time I'm learning from them knowing as long as I pay attention to the little details I'll be fine.
What is the biggest piece of advice you've gotten since you got on campus?
Lee: Your athletic ability will only take you so far at this level. There comes a time and point where you have to know what you're actually doing and read everything.
Who told you that?
Lee: [Kansas State linebacker] Dakorey Johnson, before this season.
What are some of the things you want to improve?
Lee: Being more physical. I'm not that big a linebacker, with my speed I can make up for it and I use my hands well but working on pressing my gap more and being more physical.
Who are the guys you watch to try to learn from their game?
Lee: Von Miller, because of his pass-rush and how he does things outside. At linebacker, Eric Kendricks, the guy we played last year [against UCLA in the Alamo Bowl]. I watched some of his games, how he moves around and gets to the ball. And, of course [former Wildcats linebacker] Arthur Brown, he was always around the ball.
If you sat down for a meal with three people, who would you want to sit down with?
Lee: Justin Houston, the pass-rusher for the Chiefs, DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews. They all play the outside linebacker, passing-rushing role so I could pick their brains on how they attack things and different situations.