MISSOULA — Before the snow starts to fall in Missoula, Alijah Lee needs to find an electric blanket.
Moving to Montana has its challenges, namely the cold. It’s only October, but Lee is already learning how to be a bruiser in the low temperatures.
The junior from Los Angeles has made a lot of adjustments since he moved to the northwest. Lee is a Washington State transfer, and he’s used to being the big back in a pass offense.
He’s off to a good start. Lee is averaging 4.3 yards per carry as the Griz’s secondary back and has hauled in 16 catches out of the backfield already.
406mtsports.com flagged down Lee at a recent practice and checked in with how he’s adjusting to life as a Griz.
You’re still pretty new to this system. What’s it like being a running back in a pass-dominant offense?
Here it’s not too bad. If you’ve seen the last couple of games, I can’t think of the exact numbers, but Jeremy and I probably average about 13 carries a game, 13, 14 or 15. That’s a lot. Not like a pro offense. Pro offenses they probably run 30 running plays, 25. You know, it’s a fair share so just make the most out of those carries and you’ll be alright.
Speaking of that, you’re always having to compete with these guys, but you’re also very close with the RBs. What’s that chemistry like?
It’s fun. We hang out a lot, and not just in the locker room or here at practice, but outside of school, we like to play video games, that’s the norm.
And you put up 35 points (on long snapper Matthew O’Donoghue) in Madden recently. How did you do that?
I was spreading it out. It should’ve been 28, but I got the ball back with like 20 seconds, and I just drove it down, and just pushing it in the end zone. I had to rub it in his face.
No mercy, huh?
Yeah, I’m 5-0 out here with the guys that play PlayStation. So now I got to move on to XBox.
Is PlayStation more your console?
Yeah, some guys complain, like, ‘Oh the controls are different,’ like it’s the same thing. They got different lettering, but it’s the same thing, so you know I’m going to have to challenge some guys.
Are the (Philadelphia) Eagles your team?
No, first of all, I don’t have an NFL team, but in Madden I’m a matchup kind of guy. I’ve been playing with the Vikings too.
Last week Washington State came away with a huge win. Did you watch that game?
Yeah, I was full supporting those guys. It was fun, because I know what the environment was like. Just seeing all the fans there and like, it was a national game, so it was fun to see them get the win.
Have you been texting some of the guys, congratulating them on the win?
Yeah I talked to a couple guys. More the running backs, but yeah they were talking about it. The parties — they were crazy, people were burning couches down.
Yeah, I guess that’s the, like, celebration kind of thing that they do. It’s weird. Burning couches, a lot of, you know, partying.
What’s the adjustment to Missoula been like?
I would say I didn’t like how it got so cold so fast. That kind of threw me off. School-wise, it’s not bad, because I’m doing the requirements for the major here. I had to do some of those. But nothing too crazy.
How are you adjusting to the cold?
My room, man. I got to get an electric blanket for sure. I have two blankets right now but they’re not getting the job done.
What’s wrong with the heat in your place?
I haven’t used it yet, but I like the warmth from the blankets, not necessarily the warm room, but just right there feels good.
How do you train to practice in the cold?
We (running backs) can wear long sleeves, but they have to be up to right here (elbow length). That’s about it. I like to wear hand warmers too, keep my hands warm. I haven’t necessarily played in cold weather, like the snow. I did special teams in it, but I’m talking about running the ball.