TUSCALOOSA, ALA. — Inconceivable as it may be in light of Saturday’s life-altering game in Athens, there are some emotions that rule the heart more than ol’ school spirit.
Childbirth, for instance, may just have the edge, if only by a nose.
That is why you will find some key members of the Lee family dressed up in Alabama crimson when they enter Sanford Stadium for Georgia’s meeting with ‘Bama. Their number most notably will include Georgia grad — and the daughter of one-time Bulldogs season-ticket holders — Lisa Lee. (Her husband went to neither school, so he can be a little more neutral in this delicate matter).
“We love Alabama,” she said freely, of her own will.
More specifically, that love extends to Alabama senior linebacker Dillon Lee, her youngest son.
Her eldest, Dallas, made the expected transition from star at Buford to Bulldogs offensive lineman (2009-13). But it was young Dillon who broke with tradition and jumped the wall, signing with the Crimson Tide in 2012. And now, as he has emerged as a useful member of the Alabama defense, Dillon has provided his kin with one of the more unusual viewpoints on this extravagant game.
Dillon has no doubts where the loyalties should and do lie. “My brother’s been away long enough and I am her youngest son; she has been all in for me,” he says of mom. “My parents have been as supportive as anyone could ever ask — for me coming here and while I’ve been here.”
Brother Dallas earlier this week told the Athens Banner-Herald that he’s hoping to roam the Georgia sideline Saturday, and bring along a slightly conflicted wish list: “I definitely want for him to have a really good game and, unfortunately for him, for Georgia to win,” he said.
Growing up, the family was Sanford Stadium regulars. Dillon could not put an exact number on the times he sat in those seats cheering for the Bulldogs — he guessed 100 or more games — although this will be the first time he will be on the field as an enemy combatant.
This excites him greatly, even if it is difficult to tell that by his low-key press conference style. It is a dead pan that seems in direct contradiction to his on-field image of the high-intensity, emotional power plant kind of linebacker.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” he said.
Dillon has started one game this season, and is listed atop the Crimson Tide depth chart for this one. He had himself a four-tackle day against Louisiana-Monroe last week.
“I’m happy for my role to expand, always looking to do what I can to help the team win, whatever that may be. That happens to be more this year than more in the past,” Dillon said.
“I do like to lead by example, try to get guys to do it right. Anything I can do I think can get our team to refocus and do things right.”
What would possess a person with all these Georgia connections to go off and play for the Crimson Tide?
There was an obvious breakdown in the family structure, although some may choose to call it enlightened parenting. Imagine, leaving a decision as important as this to the one who has to live with it.
“We told him you don’t have to go anywhere,” Lisa said. “We said your brother would love for you to go to Georgia and your parents would love for you to go there, but you don’t have to go anywhere.”
The chance to play under the Nick Saban/Kirby Smart defensive braintrust was too seductive, Dillon said. Stronger even than the pull of family tradition.
“Playing defense, (Alabama) is it,” he said, beginning his unsolicited recruiting testimonial. “The best defensive staff in the country is here, you can get the best coaching top to bottom. And I wanted to be a part of that.”
Once elder son Dallas graduated from Georgia — he is now working in Gainesville — the Lee family focus shifted entirely to Tuscaloosa. They became just as committed to the Crimson Tide as any caller to The Paul Finebaum Show. The conversion was complete.
And, then, when this season is done, and Dillon’s playing days are finished, the Lees figure they can slide right back into their Georgia fandom whenever the mood strikes. For the Bulldog possess just that kind of generous, understanding and forgiving fan base.
With confidence, Lisa Lee declared, “We’ll be friends again after the most recent competition is over.”