When Signing Day came around in 2004, those in and around the Florida State program thought that the ‘next big thing’ at quarterback was headed to Tallahassee, when Xavier Lee (Daytona Beach, Fla./Seabreeze) decided to be a Seminole. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound ‘Mr. Football’ had just finished up an incredible high school career, in which he became the state’s all-time leader in passing yardage (9,082), completions (549), and touchdowns (98).
Lee, a former 5-star recruit, called his in-home visit from Bobby Bowden "a life changing event".
Noles247.com caught up with the former Seminole to discuss his recruitment, his career at Florida State and the night he put it all together while donning the garnet and gold.
“I chose Florida State because of the coaches and the fans and of course, Bobby Bowden,” Lee said. “The first time I was in Tallahassee was for a Florida State-Florida game in 2002. That was the first time I heard the War Chant in front of 80,000 people and I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”
At the time, Coach Bowden was not only considered an outstanding coach, but he was widely regarded as an elite recruiter and closer when Signing Day came around. When Coach Bowden showed up in Lee’s living room for his final in-home visit, the Florida signal caller knew where he was headed.
“It was a life changing event when Bobby Bowden showed up in my home,” mentioned Lee. “I didn’t come from the best town, so for him to come out and meet me, it meant a lot. People were walking around and saw him in the neighborhood and it was kind of uplifting for some people. It was one of those moments that I’ll never forget. That was when I knew I was heading to Florida State.”
When Signing Day was complete in 2004, Florida State had actually pulled in two of the top quarterbacks in the entire country. Lee, as well as Drew Weatherford (Land O’Lakes, Fla./Land O’Lakes) had signed with the Seminoles and the quarterback position looked promising for years to come. Although he doesn’t regret attending Florida State, Lee admits that it probably wasn’t the best idea for two top quarterbacks to head to the same school.
“When I decided to go to Florida State, I really wasn’t worried about who else was going to be there at quarterback,” he said. “I knew Drew was coming in, but I didn’t think much of it. The more I got to know him, I realized that we would have some good competitions and honestly, he was a good guy. I thought that it would keep us both at the top of our game, but things didn’t work out that way for either of us. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea for us to be at the same school, but can’t think of those things now.”
Jimbo Fisher became the offensive coordinator at Florida State in 2007, which was Lee’s junior season at Florida State. Just prior to the season opener, Fisher came out and announced that Drew Weatherford would be the starting quarterback. Lee thought about transferring to Bethune-Cookman at the time, but decided to stay in Tallahassee. In the end, Weatherford would hold on to the starting job and at that time, Lee didn’t necessarily feel as though he got a fair shot from Coach Fisher.
“Jimbo and my relationship was kind of funny to be honest,” Lee noted. “He came in and really expected a lot out of me and I expected a lot out of him. We didn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on a lot of things and we definitely butted heads a few times. There were times that I felt that I performed better than the others, but I didn’t get a fair shot. Ya know, it was tough because we didn’t have much time to gel and grow together and things just didn’t work out. I actually ended up coming back to visit during (Christian) Ponder’s last year and Jimbo and I actually got a chance to talk about everything. It was good. We talked about the past and just kind of agreed that we wanted more time together and think that things would have worked out differently had he been there for my whole career.”
Lee called his outstanding performance at Maryland in 2006 'bittersweet'.
Throughout the high’s and low’s of Lee’s career at Florida State, there was a night that he lived up to the lofty expectations that everyone had for him, while filling in for an injured Drew Weatherford. Although the Seminoles fell to Maryland 27 – 24, Lee, a sophomore at the time, put on a show that night in College Park, Maryland, going 22 of 36 for 286 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, while adding 50 yards on the ground.
“The Maryland game was bittersweet to be honest,” said Lee. “It felt good to have everything click one night, but it was a tough one to lose. I played just about as good as I could play and I thought everything was clicking right. Our receivers played great, the offensive line held up and the play calling was on point. Looking back on the last drive, I probably could have made some better decisions to get us in the end zone, but it is what it is. All in all, Chris Davis had a hell of a game and so did Greg Carr. It was just a really tough loss.”
Today, Lee continues to watch Florida State games every Saturday and admits he’s still a fan of the Seminoles. Jameis Winston, the five-star, dual threat, redshirt freshman quarterback, is someone that Lee has heard of and he’s been told about the talent comparisons on the field. Although he hasn’t spoken to Winston directly, Lee would like to get in touch with the young quarterback and get to know him a little better.
“With me being out west now, I don’t follow Florida State recruiting really anymore,” said Lee. “I’ve heard of Jameis, but haven’t seen any film or anything. I actually thought about reaching out to him and just introducing myself. I figure I could reach out and honestly, if I can offer any advice to him, I would just tell him to stay in the playbook, keep working hard and take advantage of all his opportunities. I hear he has a bright future ahead of him.”
Currently, Lee is living in Arizona and has recently hung up the cleats for good. He’s currently working on some new business opportunities, but as for his football career, that is a thing of the past.