Chapel Hill product Lee aims to finish on a high note at UNT

Chapel Hill graduate Lairamie Lee (right) celebrates a defensive play during a game last season. (Courtesy)

DENTON — The 2013 season, one which ended with North Texas in a bowl game for the first time in a decade, was definitely a year to remember for Lairamie Lee.

However, the former Chapel Hill HS defensive back who is now a senior for the Mean Green, isn't satisfied with UNT's 36-14 win over UNLV in January's Heart of Dallas Bowl at Cotton Bowl Stadium. No, he wants to top that impressive accomplishment in this, his final season in Denton. "Yeah, we always want to improve every year, want to improve and get better. That's our goal, win as many games as we can and hopefully be back in another bowl game," Lee said.

As a junior, the 5-foot-10, 197-pound strong safety finished with a career-high 74 tackles with four tackles for loss and three interceptions, second most on the Mean Green. But as UNT is now nearing its opener on Saturday at Texas, the veteran starter admits it has definitely hit him that he is about to begin his final season. "It's kind of sad it's all coming to an end, but I feel good about this year. I think this should be my most productive year and I'm just ready to get it started," Lee said.

One aspect of playing for the Mean Green that he'll especially miss is no longer playing under UNT head coach Dan McCarney, the only head coach he's known as a collegian. McCarney, previously the head coach at Iowa State between 1995 and 2006, earned his reputation as a defensive coach at places like Wisconsin and Florida and those teachings have left a lasting impression on Lee.

"I just know Coach McCarney is going to get everything you have out of you. He's a good coach. He's a great motivator. He makes you come to practice and games, makes you be accountable and make sure you do your job by making plays," he said.

UNT was picked by the media to win Conference USA's West Division and even as the Mean Green heads into 2014 as no longer a team that can surprise anyone like they were last fall, Lee and his teammates are ready to handle having a target on their back as the favorite.

"We know that folks know something about us now. We won last year and went to a bowl game. We've just got to stay focused and keep our heads on the right shoulder and just come out every game and play hard," he said.

The Mean Green finished 9-4 overall last season (6-2 in C-USA), but this year's team is looking to secure the program's first back-to-back bowl games since 2003 and 2004 when UNT finished a streak of four consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history under former coach Darrell Dickey.

"It was a great time," Lee said of last year's season ending in a bowl. "It was a great time for us as a team. We got some exposure. We were able to show the country and everybody how we play and stuff. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Hopefully we can do it again this year."

— Steve Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco.

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