A press conference was held on Tuesday after the announcement of the Sean Lee retirement, discussing his career and the Dallas Cowboys legacy he now leaves behind. In attendance at The Star was Lee, Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and Mike McCarthy.
Sean Lee’s Decision to Retire
“If I’m being honest, I’ve been trying to avoid this day for awhile,” said Lee. The 34-year-old saying he went back and forth on “playing forever” and “I’m done” for awhile now.
“I’ve been though a lot physically, and at some point you say I need to move on even though I’ve been blessed,” said Lee.
Jerry Jones said the two mutually agreed that it was time for the decision to be made.
“When I bought the Cowboys in 1989, I dreamed, I hoped to be associated with people like Sean Lee,” said Jerry.
Something that Sean’s high school football coach always knew would be the case. Coach Jim Render was Lee’s high school football coach at Upper St. Clair High School for four years, but knew Sean as an eighth grader, since he coached his older brother Connor during that time.
Render had coached at Upper St. Clair for 49 years before retiring in 2019. Even then, he knew Lee would be a special player when he coached him back in 2002-06.
“He has been not only a very good player, but a very good role model,” said Render.
A Life Changing Call From Jerry Jones | Start of a Career and Legacy
Sean Lee grew up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, but once he got the call from Jerry Jones the night of the 2010 NFL Draft, that changed quickly.
Coach Render recalls the night of the Draft, being at Lee’s house with close friends and family.
At the time, everyone in Lee’s circle thought that the Steelers would select him. He said when the Steelers didn’t end up selecting him, they were all disappointed. Lee then walked out of the house, being noticeably let down.
Coach Render said the other teams made a mistake by not drafting him, because it was always a guarantee that wherever he went would get “a hard-worker, an effort guy and a guy you would never read about getting in trouble.”
“It wasn’t too much longer (he walked out of the house) he came in with a pretty big smile on his face,” said Coach Render.
It was at that moment when Lee got the call from Jerry Jones, saying he would be the 55th selection for the 2010 NFL Draft and going to the Dallas Cowboys. This would be the start of Sean Lee’s career and Cowboys legacy.
Lee mentioned that night during the press conference saying “11 years ago I got a call from an unknown number and on the other side of that phone was Mr. Jones and that phone call changed my life.”
Since that day 11 years ago, Render said Lee has said nothing but positive things about the Dallas Cowboys organization.
Leaving Behind a Cowboys Legacy of Leadership
Render recalls knowing that Lee was special and a natural-leader early on. “He outworked everybody and players gravitated toward him and fed off of him,” he said.
Lee’s retirement pulled at the heartstrings of many in the Cowboys organization and around Cowboys Nation because of the leadership he has continued to exemplify during his time with the team.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a person that said ‘I don’t like Sean Lee’ whether I was in Dallas, or Penn State, or Pittsburgh. Everybody speaks highly of him, and he deserves that,” said Coach Render.
Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Mike McCarthy even said this was the case, even when he was coaching with the Packers. McCarthy made it clear, during the press conference, that he has always had a great respect for Lee as a player and leader.
Lee looked at wearing the Star as a responsibility and a blessing everyday, saying he “came in everyday trying to repay the support” he has always received from the Cowboys organization. “My goal was to help any way possible. My goal was to win a Super Bowl here,” he said.
A Touching Moment From Coach Render
Coach Render talked about going to Dallas for a game and was lucky enough to see one of Lee’s best games.
He went to the Cowboys vs. Rams game at AT&T Stadium. During this game, Lee caught an interception right before the half that led to Zeke’s scoring drive right after. Lee would, also, end up sacking Jared Goff in the second half.
“Everyone’s sitting there going crazy and I’m sitting there crying because I was proud,” said Coach Render.
After the game, friends and family went back to Lee and his wife’s house to celebrate. Sean had disappeared and Render asked Sean’s wife, Megan where he was. As it turns out, Sean ended up being in the other room watching film from the game the Cowboys had just won, 44-21.
“He knows that I’m very proud of him,” said the man who has known Lee for nearly 20 years now.
Lee’s Motivation to Overcome Injuries
The amount of injuries Lee sustained, even before getting drafted by the Cowboys, is not a secret to anyone. Lee said he always looked to the guys right next to him on the field for inspiration during these dark times, specifically Dak Prescott.
“I learned so much from him,” said Lee. Mentioning how he has learned from Dak’s positivity, how he faces adversity, and his “cool” demeanor.
After every injury, that he explained as being demoralizing, Jerry would call him to give him a pep talk. At one point, he looked at Jerry, who was sitting right next to him, saying “you never quit on me.” Sean talked about being “in the dumps” after a three-year stretch with multiple injuries. He said that Jerry would “pick him up off the floor” with their phone calls.
As for the younger group of players still on the roster, Lee hopes to have instilled the lesson that it is a blessing to be part of the Cowboys tradition. When asked who the team will look up to as leaders with him and Tyrone Crawford retiring, he said “there’s an immense amount of leaders on this team with unbelievable qualities”.
Lee said he has talked to some of the old players about his decision and the memories they made, but overall he just wanted to thank them.
Post-Retirement Plans for The General
Sean Lee has always been the ideal candidate to coach after calling it a career and leaving behind a Cowboys legacy. In fact, he isn’t counting of his future plans just yet.
“My dream would be that relative to our organization that this wouldn’t t be the last time at all sitting here in some manner together,” said Jerry Jones. “I’m a big believer that the legacy of the Cowboys and certainly in this case, his story, it can be a big part of our future,” he continued.
When the topic of coaching came up, Lee reiterated that he loves the Cowboys organization, and wants to be involved. When asked if he wanted to coach, he said “that’s definitely something I’m going to consider.” But that he knows that if he commits to something he is going to be “full in no matter what.” Lee added that until he’s ready to make that kind of commitment and it’s better that he takes this time to just step away for now.
Render agrees and thinks that Lee would be a great coach if that’s what he decides to do. “He would probably spend more time in preparation than he does as a player knowing him,” he said.
Lee said he is going to take a breather to assess. But most importantly, he is going to spend time with his wife at the beach.