Before this spring, all Alijah Lee knew about Montana athletics came from watching Kareem Jamar play for the Grizzly basketball team.
One weekend in Missoula was enough assurance though. Lee is going to be a Griz.
A short but stout running back transfer from FBS Washington State, Lee committed Saturday to finish his college playing career at Montana. After coach Bob Stitt offered Lee a full scholarship during his visit to the mountains, the 5-foot-6, 200-pound back informed UM's head man of his decision before flying home to the Los Angeles area.
"I was in Pullman (Washington) before this and that was a small town too, but Missoula's a pretty big town," Lee said shortly after landing at LAX Saturday evening. "I thought that was pretty cool, seeing the (Griz) as the main priority because they don't have any professional teams."
Lee walked-on with Wazzu following a highly decorated prep career at Venice High School near West Los Angeles. After redshirting in 2014 he played in nine games the next fall, but didn't register any carries. As a sophomore last season, he rushed the ball four times for a total of 20 yards.
Two of those came on back-to-back plays in a 56-6 blowout of Idaho. The latter covered 6 yards as Lee burst into the end zone for a touchdown.
Six games and nearly two months passed before Lee earned another carry though and with two years of eligibility remaining, the running back decided to head for a new opportunity this offseason.
"I thought it was best to leave and take a shot at getting a chance to play somewhere at the D-I or (FCS) level," Lee said. "I knew I was capable."
Lee, who grew up with Jamar, the former Griz hoops standout who played in Missoula from 2010-14, will add depth to a Montana backfield that was riddled with injuries in the spring.
Projected starter Jeremy Calhoun, a junior, missed all of spring drills while recovering from an offseason surgery and sophomore Cody McCombs missed large chunks of time with his own injury. Meanwhile, senior Treshawn Favors proved inconsistent carrying the bulk of the load along with redshirt freshman Rey Green.
"(Calhoun) is their main guy but (the coaches) want me to come in and push him and myself, push to either take reps from him or help him be better," Lee said.
Lee is a physical force crammed into a compact package and though his speed and evasiveness are his primary weapons, he can still deliver a hit. He added more than 30 pounds of muscle to his high school playing weight which, combined with a low center of gravity, can make for a very difficult out.
"I told the coaches there's times I feel like I can let a defensive player know I'm here, dip my shoulder," Lee began, "but I like to be shifty, make a person miss. I can do either or."
Montana had been on the hunt for transfer help at both running back and cornerback this spring.
The Griz open the 2017 football season at home on Sept. 2 against Valparaiso.