Lee Pegues Feature: For the Good of the Team
Sept. 17, 2013
Originally printed Sept. 5, 2013 in the First and Goal football game program
By Lindy Zamora,
One game stands out in the mind of senior defensive end Lee Pegues. It's not a bowl game, a blowout victory, or a shutout by the defense. It is last season's contest against Marshall, a game that went into double overtime and saw the Pirates come out on top 65-59. Yes, it was an exciting game for Pirate Nation. But, it left a bitter taste in the mouths of Pegues and the defense, which allowed the Thundering Herd to score nearly 60 points.
This year, with a new defensive coordinator in Rick Smith, the Pirates and Pegues are hopeful the defense will have a different look to it, as his goal is to always do what is best for the team. Pegues will also be looking to defensive line coach Mark Yellock for that extra push that might be needed during competition.
"(Yellock) pushes us hard," Pegues said. "It's a big challenge. At practice he pushes us hard to make plays. I feel like he's taught me to keep working hard in everything and you'll eventually get the results you want."
Pushing himself to accomplish his goals is a big part of who Pegues is. Growing up, he did not come from a football family. Although his father, Lee Pegues, Jr., and his older brother, Derrick, played football briefly in high school, it was not a big part of the Pegues family's life. In fact, the youngest of the Pegues boys did not begin playing organized football until he was in the sixth grade.
By chance, Pegues was introduced to football by his best friend's father who was coaching a sixth grade football team and invited Pegues to suit up. He fell in love with the game and has been pushing himself to excel on the gridiron ever since.
Early on, Pegues played both offense and defense, but always had a love for the defensive positions.
"I like being able to run around and hit people," Pegues said with a smile. "It's all about having fun. I've always been more of a defensive person. It's just the mentality of being able to get the ball and help my teammates. It's just a discipline."
The love he developed for the game eventually rubbed off on his family. The close-knit Pegues clan went from watching the occasional football game to becoming avid college football fans.
"We weren't really a big football family until I started getting looks by colleges," Pegues explained. "Now, that's all my parents do. My mom, Rosa, never used to watch a lot of TV, but now she watches ESPN's SportsCenter and she informs me about stuff!"
Pegues credits his family with helping him to accomplish his goals of playing college football and getting through college at East Carolina. He calls his parents his biggest inspiration because of the support they have given him throughout his life.
"My parents are always there for me," Pegues said. "They've never let me down. Everything I've ever needed, they got for me."
The family-oriented Pegues discusses everything from school to life to football with his family. When the 6-foot-2, nearly 300-pound Pegues first came to ECU in 2010, he was told he would redshirt. However, due to a number of unexpected injuries on the defensive line, Pegues was asked to forgo his redshirt year more than halfway through the season.
"At first, I didn't really want to sacrifice (my redshirt year)," Pegues explained. "But I talked to my parents and I talked to the coaches and I made the best move for the team."
The unselfish move on Pegues' part helped the 2010 Pirates to a bowl game appearance in the Military Bowl against Maryland in Washington, D.C. That year, Pegues recorded 11 tackles, six of which were solo hits, and quarterback hurry in five appearances.
The following year, Pegues was able to play his first full collegiate season and he capped the year with 26 tackles, eight of which were solos, 1.5 hits for lost yardage, one sack, and one quarterback hurry. His hard work and willingness to do what he had to for the good of the team helped him tie for seventh on the squad with five solo hits in non-conference action. He also recorded a career-high six tackles in ECU's 34-13 win over Tulane.
As Pegues continued to push himself, he became more successful on the field. At the conclusion of his junior year in 2012, Pegues was named an All-Conference USA Team honorable mention performer.
From the first time he put on purple and gold, Pegues did what was best for the team. As a junior that still held true as he started the season at nose tackle and finished it at defensive end.
"In practice I worked both positions," Pegues said of his position switch last season. "Coach always told us to be able to play whatever position he puts us at because anything can happen. So I always make sure that I'm ready for anything."
Pegues wrapped up the year with 36 tackles, 17 solos, and 4.5 tackles for loss (-9 yards) in 13 games, 12 of which he started.
This season, he will be ready for whatever is thrown at him. His only concern is helping the team win and holding opponents to the least amount of points as possible.
"The goal for ECU football is to win a championship as a team," Pegues said.
Prior to the start of the 2013 season, East Carolina was picked to win the Conference USA East Division as the Pirates racked up 11 first-place votes. The expectations came on the heels of ECU's successful 2012 season in which it made its sixth bowl game appearance in seven years and concluded the year with an 8-5 overall record and a 7-1 C-USA mark.
"Being picked to win the East Division is a high expectation," Pegues said. "But that is what we've always expected to do, so we just have to go out there and do it."
As he's done throughout his career, Pegues will put on his helmet and lace up his cleats and do what he can to help the team. He is looking forward to his final season in purple and gold, but he is also looking ahead to what the future might hold. Pegues has dreams of playing in the NFL and donning a Dallas Cowboys jersey one day. However, he also enjoys working with children and is looking to put his degree in family community services to work as he'd like to pursue an internship with the Boys and Girls Club after graduation.
A well-rounded individual, Pegues will look to erase the memory of the too-close-for-comfort Marshall game from last season and go out and do what he does best - being a selfless teammate who does what is best for the Pirates.