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Iowa’s Logan Lee leads with maturity, becomes ‘more productive player’
Logan Lee not only seeks to learn how to do tasks, but also why for ‘different level of understanding’
IOWA CITY — Orion (Ill.) High School football coach Chip Filler still remembers a $100 bet Logan Lee made in fifth grade with his father.
“He couldn’t drink Mountain Dew for a month,” said Filler, who also coached with Lee’s uncle and used to coach his cousin.
The reason it’s so memorable? “He hasn’t had any soda since then, and he’s 22 years old.”
“That’s the type of mindset he has — ‘there’s not anything that’s going to get in my way of doing it,’” Filler said.
Now in his fourth year at Iowa and second year starting on the defensive line, that determination has served Lee well.
The junior defensive tackle has the most tackles through three games among Iowa’s defensive linemen. His 1.5 sacks are tied for third on the team.
Seven of his tackles resulted in what PFF defines as a “failure” for the offense, which is tied for second-best on Iowa’s defensive line.
Lee is not one to draw attention to his success.
“It’s probably hard to talk to him about himself because he’ll always want to talk about somebody else,” Filler said. “He’s probably the best man I know, and he’s 22 years old.”
Others will happily do so, though.
“He’s definitely done a better job from last year at being a more productive player,” Iowa defensive line coach Kelvin Bell said.
Bell attributed much of the improvement to Lee’s physical and mental preparation.
The physical preparation “gives you a certain amount of confidence,” Bell said, while the mental preparation helps in “recognizing certain tendencies that the offense is going to give you.”
“It helps you play faster,” Bell said of mental preparation. “It really helps you make more calculated risks than you would if you didn’t know.”
Lee, who noticed himself playing faster as well, said he’s learned from the way Bell looks at the physical and mental aspects of the game.
“He’s really changed my perspective on it being a game of physicality versus a game of mental cognition and being able to combine the two,” Lee said. “It’s not one or the other. … It’s definitely a game that requires both.”
The Orion native’s prominent role on the defensive line in 2021 and 2022 came after battling some injuries as an underclassman.
He was hurt for much of his redshirt season in 2019, often keeping him out of practice and helpful developmental opportunities. A shoulder injury kept him out of spring practices in 2021. Going back to high school, a ruptured spleen ended his senior season at Orion.
After playing in all 14 games for the Hawkeyes in 2021 and amid a healthy 2022, Lee is feeling “pretty darn good,” he said.
Whether it be when Lee was a freshman at Orion High School or now as an upperclassman at the University of Iowa, Lee’s maturity has stood out.
“Logan is like a 40-year-old guy,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said at media day. “He is married, and you can easily see that. He's probably got three kids and a station wagon by now, too.”
It’s not just Ferentz cracking jokes about Lee’s maturity.
“We’ve got some guys that give me a hard time,” Lee said. “But it’s all with love.”
One reporter joked to quarterback Spencer Petras that maybe the reason Lee enjoyed all the time in the locker room during the three lightning delays against Nevada was because he’s married now.
“That’s good,” Petras said after laughing. “Not married, so I can’t comment on that.”
All joking aside, Lee also has taken a leadership role as a junior.
He has roomed with Aaron Graves, giving him a chance to “talk through stuff” with the true freshman who arrived at Iowa with much acclaim.
“If he has any questions, make sure they get answered,” Lee said. “He has a whole lot of potential, and it was nice to see him get some reps last week and be able to play pretty well.”
That leadership is nothing new for Lee. Filler said he “commands people’s respect, and he does it the right way.”
“He was a Division I person before he was a Division I athlete,” Filler said. “He was a natural leader in our high school from the minute he walked through the door.”
Life is a little different for Lee this year now that he’s married. He tied the knot with his wife, Tori, this summer after proposing at Universal Orlando Resort on the team’s bowl trip.
“It’s pretty nice,” Lee said. “Not a whole lot changed.”
Tori works during the day, so he usually doesn’t see her until about 6:30 p.m.
Away from the field, Lee is a man of many interests.
He spent some of his offseason on a service trip to Ecuador to spread his Christian faith and distribute water filters to 86 families without clean drinking water.
He loves hunting and guns.
“Don’t get him started talking about guns,” Filler said.
That same person also has worked to learn more about racial inequity, going on a service trip along other Big Ten athletes and coaches to Selma, Ala., and listening to the book “Caste: The Origins of our Discontents.” Bell, who recommended the book, said he “took it to heart.”
“We talk a lot, and it’s not always about football,” Bell said. ”It’s mostly about life.”
Bell said Lee is “extremely transparent,” whether that be with how he’s feeling or “what he knows and what he doesn’t know.”
He also asks questions that go beyond just what to do or how to do something.
“He’s a guy that wants to know why,” Bell said. “You can tell him how to do it, but he wants to know why. Once he understands that why, he’s got a different level of understanding that’s going to take his performance to the next level.”
A lot of why questions later and more than a decade without a Mountain Dew, Lee is reaching that next level as a starter on one of the top-performing defensive lines in the Big Ten.
“To go watch him do it on a bigger stage, it’s kind of surreal at times,” Filler said. “He’s a really great Hawkeye, and I think he’s going to be a really great NFL guy.”