Devonte Lee will be one of about a dozen fifth-year seniors on the Nevada football roster next season, a rarity given the rash of transfers out of the program after the Wolf Pack's coaching change from Jay Norvell to Ken Wilson this offseason. Additionally, the Nevada running back will help the Nevada Legislature in 2022 as part of a select panel that will assess the impact of name, image and likeness (NIL) deals in the NCAA. Lee, who has 1,253 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns in his career, is expected to take a larger role in Nevada's offense next season as it moves from an Air Raid attack to a more balanced scheme. As a result of his success on and off the field, Lee is the Nevada Sports Net Wolf Pack Athlete of the Month for January, an honor presented in partnership with Champion Chevrolet.
You can watch our full interview with Devonte Lee below, or check out our Q&A underneath that.
Q&A with Devonte Lee
NSN: You just came from your conditioning test with your new strength coach Mason Baggett? How are you feeling? How'd that go?
Devonte Lee: It was pretty cool. It was pretty intense. Usually coaches try to ease you into it. I don't know if that's his way of easing into it, but it was pretty intense. It was fun. We had a couple of guys throw-up, so that's always good, and he saw a lot of fight in a lot of guys. He was able to see that we've got a lot of fight to us, and it's not going to be easy to break. So I feel like it's going to be fun.
NSN: So he pushes you guys right to the brink and a couple of guys throw up. Were you close at all?
DL: No. We work out a lot. I don't really take too much time off when I'm away from football, so I was still conditioned. But it was some good work. It was enough work to get you right, to make you think like, "OK, if you doing anything you're not supposed to be doing when you're not on the field, you might want to just chill out to water."
NSN: How have you digested the last 45 days (with Jay Norvell leaving for Colorado State and Ken Wilson being hired)? You go back 45 days, you guys beat Colorado State, a nice cap to the end of the regular season and all the chaos that's ensued since then, how have you taken that in?
DL: College has been a wild ride. A lot of stuff catches you off guard, but since I've been here, there's been a lot of coaching changes. Before everything happened, there was a lot of gossip, there was a lot of stuff in the air. So it wasn't catching us by surprise. It hurt a little bit because you don't want that reality to come to reality. It's been a crazy ride. We had fun in the bowl game. Vai (Taua) really had the guys going, had us on our way. He made it to where we wanted to go play football and knew that we could do it with everything that happened to us. So it's been a crazy ride, especially with the new coaches coming in and seeing some of the recruits he's bringing it. He's bringing in a couple of big guys on the O-line, and that's going to help us out a lot. We brought in a couple receivers. I've see some quarterbacks. He's trying to do a lot. He has a great message with everything he does. He tries to rile us up and let us know it's going to be a new Nevada, that he's looking for championships. So I'm just looking forward to winning one.
NSN: What's been the biggest message you've taken away from Coach Wilson. He obviously has a lot of history at Nevada. He was with the Wolf Pack for almost two-and-a-half decades, most of those as an assistant coach on the defensive side of the ball. What have you enjoyed most about meeting your new coach?
DL: I just enjoy his fire. He has some passion to him. His history in Reno just shows. It shows that he loves the community, it shows that he loves everything about being here. I just love how he attacks the program, how he looks at everything as a challenge and he's been a great outlet. If you want to reach out to him, he's been easy to contact. So I feel like he's doing a great job getting into the program, trying to earn the trust of everyone and trying to take the right steps and have a winning program.
NSN: There's been no secret that lot of guys, a lot of your former teammates went into the transfer portal. They either went to Colorado State with Coach Norvell or elsewhere. What made you want to stay here at Nevada and say, "You know what, my whole five-year career is going to be part of the Wolf Pack?"
DL: I've just got a lot of brothers on the team, and I've been here for basically five years. I just love the town. I love Reno. I really love waking up and seeing the mountains. It's just a different view being from Oklahoma. I just see opportunity. I can just smell opportunity. I want to play. I want to contribute. We had big stars last year. We had Cole (Turner), Carson (Strong), Romeo, (Doubs). Norvell wanted to get those guys the ball, let them make plays. And it wasn't that much more food on the bone. So now I just feel like there's a lot of food on the bone. There's a lot of plays that can be made and a lot of opportunity for a player like myself and other players who feel like they didn't get a shot to just go play.
NSN: Coach Wilson has talked a lot about how he wants to be balanced on offense. He wants to be able to run the ball. That's obviously the DNA when he was an assistant coach here in Nevada, running the ball a ton with that Pistol offense. How much are you looking forward to having more meat on the bone, maybe getting a few more running plays in that belly than you had the last couple of years?
DL: I'm very excited. I talk to my wife about it all the time. Sometimes it's hard waking up and seeing your son and you know you're a great player. You never doubt yourself. You never try to lose confidence. But when you're not able to make plays or just have the opportunity to showcase everything that you feel like you can do, sometimes it takes a toll on you. For it to be like a fresh start and for them to want to run the ball and just to have a little bit more balance to where a lot of more people can play, it's exciting. It's just like a breath of fresh air and makes you really believe in everything and makes you feel like it is your time to shine.
NSN: How do you want to be defined as a runner? Obviously, you're a hard runner. You've been called a bowling ball every time you guys are on national TV. When people see you run, what do you want them to think of you?
DL: I just want them to know that I'm trying to play well. I just want the commentators to be like, "Why is he not playing? Why is he not in the game?" I just want the world to know I can play. I had a lot of buzz coming out of high school and then just the way my hand was dealt, I haven't really been able to showcase everything I can do. So every time I try to touch the field, I try to do something that the crowd can remember. I try to do something that can just lift the morale of the team and just give us some juice. I want them to think, "He needs to be in the game."
NSN: You mentioned that buzz coming out of high school. It was maybe the most viral moment I've seen of any Wolf Pack athlete. Somebody put your (high school highlight) mix tape out on Twitter and everyone was retweeting it. Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans was saying, "This guy's awesome." What was that like for you when you actually saw that when it went national?
DL: Oh, it was exciting. I mean, it's been, like, four years, so the excitement dies down over time. Sometimes I don't even want to see it. Sometimes I'll just be like, "Dang. man," because that just reminds me of what I should be doing right now or what my goals were and where I thought I would be at this point in time. Sometimes it's motivation. Sometimes I watch them before I go out on the field just to show myself and remind myself, "This is you. You can really go out there and perform." So I don't take any blessing lightly. So I thank God for any exposure that he's helping me with. I'm thankful for it, but right now I'm really just focused on putting those highlights into play now.
NSN: One really exciting announcement that came out this month is that you're going to be part of a five-person panel working with the Nevada state legislature to assess name, image and likeness. Wolf Pack softball coach Linda Garza is also on that panel. You're the only athlete from the Wolf Pack on that panel. You've gotten a couple of NIL deals and that certainly helps student-athlete trying to make ends meet. How surprised were you that you were named to this panel, and what do you hope to get out of it? What kind of voice do you want to give to the Legislature about these NIL deals and how they help athletes?
DL: I'm really just blessed. I thank God just being the only athlete to be able to go talk about it. I'm excited. I have a son, his name is Chance. Shoutout Chance. I love you boy. Sometimes you need extra money. We don't get paid (stipends) that much as student-athletes, as much as people think. Everyone says, "They pay for your school." But sometimes we're broke. You get paid once a month, and we really need time to eat. Sometimes you've got to pay a lot of tickets because we don't get blessed with (campus) ticket exemptions. Sometimes you need these deals. I had to deal with COIT Industries, Shutout COIT Industries for home modeling and if water and stuff is broken. That really helped me out a lot. I have a sponsor with DreamPrints Gear, a nice clothing line, and these things are blessings, things you never expected. I'm very excited to go talk to them about it and tell them much it he helps me personally and how much I see it helping my teammates.
NSN: Give a little perspective to Wolf Pack fans how many hours you put in a week to football. We're not even talking about the academic side, which is a huge element, but between lifting and practice and game prep and watching film and actually going out and playing games on Saturday, how many hours would you estimate you spend on football per week during the season?
DL: It's a lot. It ranges. Sometimes you get the shorter end, but you always have to work out yourself. You always have to polish your craft. My motto is, and I tell everybody on my team, they always hear me say, "If you're only doing this workout that the coaches are giving you, you're wrong. If this is the only workout that you're doing today, you're wrong." So with that mentality, as a football player we're always having to sharpen our skills. We're not competing with the guys in our room. We're not competing with the Mountain West. You're competing with the SEC, the Pac-12, everyone. You put in a lot of hours. Somedays you wake up at 5 a.m. (for practice at 7:30) and you've got to go to class at 12 and a class at 3 and you might have one at 6 and then you have to go to sleep and do it all over again. But that's not put into the thought when they're paying you. There are a lot of hours that go into it, a lot sleepless nights. A lot of days your body hurts, but you've still got to go to class. A lot of days you're just drowsy in class. So it's a lot.
NSN: I want to ask you about Chance. You've got a tattoo of your son who's about to turn 2 years old on your bicep. Tell us a little bit about being a father and what being able to raise a son means to you.
DL: Being a father is great. I wouldn't tell y'all to rush into anything, but it's really a great feeling. My son looks exactly like me. So it's great to see a mini-me. It's great to see him just be rough. It's great to see him hit his head or hurt himself and just get up and shrug it off. It's just a highlight in itself, especially knowing that he's watching me play. That makes you grind harder. It really does. I don't want him to be embarrassed of anything that I've done. So it really makes me be on my A-game because I don't want no kid to be, "Look at your dad," and just laughing. I just want to set him up for success every chance I get.