Joe Lee had his reasons for increasing his highs in bench press and squat, each by 100 pounds, heading into this season as Farmingdale's starting middle linebacker.
"I wanted to leave my mark in Farmingdale as one of the best linebackers,'' Lee said. "Also, heading into this season, I was under the radar. I had a chip on my shoulder and I wanted to prove people wrong. I wasn't really recognized.''
Lee was certainly acknowledged Wednesday night when he was presented as the first Farmingdale player ever to win the Bill Piner Award, selected by the coaches and given annually to the best linebacker in Nassau County. Conor Colasurdo of Carey, Paul Dilena of Massapequa and Floral Park's Conor Horan were finalists for the award, which started in 1997.
The 5-11, 215-pound senior made 95 tackles as Farmingdale (11-1) won the Nassau I championship and allowed only 8.5 points a game during an 8-0 regular season. Lee, who also covered running backs man-to-man, attributed much of his success to his time in the weight room.
Back in February 2012, Lee was barely able to bench press 185 pounds. That changed quickly. He entered football camp this season able to push 295, he said.
Late last year, during his junior season, Lee was able to squat 315 pounds 20 times. This season he said he squatted 415 pounds for 21 repetitions, which led his team.
"I knew I had the ability to be good, but I needed the strength. I figured if I added the strength, I'd be that much better,'' said Lee, who started as an outside linebacker in 2012.
He was right.
"He put a tremendous amount of time in the weight room and added about 30 pounds,'' coach Buddy Krumenacker said. "People talk about linebackers who get to the ball, but some get to the ball a lot better. Joe's one of them.''
Lee proved that with 91/2 tackles in the Nassau I championship against Massapequa.
Lee said he has attracted interest from Division II colleges. His high school legacy was cemented just the way he wanted.
"This award would mean the world to me,'' Lee said Tuesday afternoon, before he knew of his honor. "It would cap all the work in the weight room and all the training. It would be amazing to be the first linebacker in the program to win.''