Old Face in a New Place: Update on Former Tech QB Vad Lee


In light of Tech’s enormously disappointing season on the gridiron, let’s shift gears and take a look at a feel good story.

Back in 2012, there was enormous hype surrounding Vad Lee as kid with all the needed talent to be a dual-threat quarterback on the Flats. He had a gun for an arm, 4.45 40-yard speed, and the humility to play in a team-first offense. All the signs pointed to him being a perfect fit for Paul Johnson’s spread option scheme.

In relief of senior Tevin Washington that year, he logged 544 yards on the ground (5.7 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns. He also added 596 yards through the air and four touchdowns against three picks.

Vad took over from the departing Tevin in 2013 as a redshirt sophomore, but by the second half of the season, he was regressing rather than progressing in his mastery of the offense. Lee led the Jackets to a 7-6 record that culminated with a loss pulled from the jaws of victory in Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate and a defeat to Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl a month later.

Lee’s inconsistency in his reads and his indecisiveness in the option game was evident, as he managed an average of just 2.8 yards a carry, a tiny figure for a Georgia Tech quarterback over the past eight years. He finished the year with 513 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground and 1561 yards through the air, with an 11-to-10 touchdown to interception passing ratio.

Then, just days after the defeat to Ole Miss in Nashville, out of the blue Vad Lee announced he was transferring.

It’s fairly important for a Georgia Tech quarterback to have the triple option as “one of his things”.

The development certainly explained his lack of comfort in the offense but left more questions than answers. Tech was left scrambling for a replacement in a difficult offense to fully grasp. Of course, an 11-3 season later, Tech found a suitable replacement in the form of a once defensive back Alabama verbal commit.

A year later, however, we would get a longer explanation for why. What made Vad suddenly decide to leave the college at which he spent three years of his life? By this time, he has already enjoyed a bounce-back season as the helmsman of James Madison, an FCS team. ESPN’s Big Man on Campus visited the home of the Dukes and caught up with Vad a few weeks ago:

It’s great to see this contentment with his choice to transfer and showcase a much more comfortable façade at James Madison than Tech, on and off the field.

I, myself, am an alumnus of Georgia Tech and will be the first to say Tech isn’t for everyone. The academic rigors and situation in the middle of a large American metropolis can and has eaten up some of the best and brightest young adults. I have seen firsthand how Tech can chew up high school valedictorians or nationally-ranked athletes and spit them out with no remorse.

A college decision should never be who ranks higher on a U.S. News and World Reports list or who has the best football team. It’s always about fit, form and function specifically related to each individual, and it’s great to see Vad finally find his place of comfort, albeit somewhere else.

He has flourished on a different football field in the past year and a half as well. After a 9-4 year that only saw losses to the upper division Maryland Terrapins and three teams ranked in the FCS’s Top 25 of the AP Poll, the 2015 Dukes (7-0) are undefeated behind the strength of a high-powered offense led by senior Vad Lee, including a win at FBS Southern Methodist. James Madison is currently fifth in the AP Poll and scoring 48.7 points per match on offense.

Individually, Vad Lee is averaging 271 yards passing per game with 19 touchdowns against 10 interceptions with a 69.7% completion percentage to boot, 20 points higher than either season at Tech. He even has 690 yards rushing so far, more than either 2012 or 2013 despite having played only seven games, averaging 7.3 yards per rush and five rushing scores overall. As a result, he is firmly in the running for FCS Offensive Player of the Year.

And then there’s this:

Yes, ESPN’s College Gameday is visiting Harrisonburg, Virginia, home of the James Madison Dukes for their homecoming and rivalry game with nearby Richmond. It will be a great spotlight for Vad Lee this Saturday to be on a national stage for many more to hear about his story of searching for his comfort zone. I know I speak for all Tech fans who wish him the best in his future endeavors.