Dayton's Maurice Lee appreciates opportunity, sets marks
DAYTON, Ohio - There have been some great "go-to" combinations in all of indoor football in the past and present.
There has been (Mark) Grieb to (James) Hundon and (Tony) Graziani to (Chris) Jackson. More recently there is (John) Dutton to (Damian) Harrell, (Jake) Eaton to (J.J.) McKelvey and (Derrick) Vickers to (Ethenic) Sands.
First names were important only because name familiarity is all but non-existent in the 50-yard indoor game. What is more impressive, however, is each duo has hooked up for more than 45% of the total passes thrown for touchdowns. Many of those completions came at key moments of a game.
Quarterback to receiver. That is the bottom line at all levels of the under the roof' game.
DYNAMIC DUO: BELLISARI, LEE
The Dayton Warbirds have developed their own combo. Bellisari to Lee. Specifically, Steve Bellisari to Maurice Lee. It's a two-some that has worked well for the Warbirds' first season.
The two former Buckeyes have hooked up for .817 percent in total completions (Lee's 58 catches were from 71 of Bellisari's total completions) and 15 of Lee's total touchdown receptions were from Steve's 38 total TD completions in the National Indoor Football League this season.
Why is all this impressive? It's because when a signal caller has to find a receiver, he relies on the guy who can get open with speed and smarts. Lee is just that collective ticket.
The two will hook up for a first-round NIFL playoff game at Fayetteville, N.C., Saturday when the Warbirds (8-6) meet the Guard (7-7).
He now makes his home in Columbus where he drives an hour to Dayton each afternoon for an evening practice. It all started, however, in the city by the lake.
From Cleveland South High School where he was an option quarterback, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Lee was recruited to Ohio State as a receiver. He played for the Buckeyes from 1999 to 2003. In that time he was tossed back-and-forth from the offense (receiver) to the defense (back).
"He's truly an impact player," said Dayton Warbirds head coach Matt King. "He is extremely fast, runs great routes, but most importantly he has a special bond with Steve (Bellisari)."
Lee said Bellisari is a "great guy" who knows the game and has the experience needed to win.
NAME NOW IN RECORD BOOKS
Not only has Lee led the Warbirds in receptions, but he's chiseled his name into the NIFL record books. He was 5th in the league in both receptions (71) and receiving yardage per game (69.4), but most importantly, he was 1st in the league in all-purpose yards (per game, 178.3) in the 12 games he played.
The average per game was a league record for a season.
Lee had 833 yards (11.7 yards a catch) and had a long grab of 39 yards. He also ran the ball 13 times for 40 yards and two touchdowns.
It was his spectacular kick returns that added to the all-purpose yards. He had 62 kick off returns for 1,263 yards, a 20.4 yards per return, which put him just out of the top 10 by only one yard on the average.
He established a new NIFL record for most return yards in a game of 276, set May 28 at Billings and tied the record for longest kickoff for a TD of 58 yards. Jacobe Austin of Lake Charles set that standard at Tupelo in June of 2003.
GOD-GIVEN CATCHING ABILITY'
How does Lee explain his ability? "I have good footwork and quickness but just have the God-given ability to catch Steve's passes. I don't think there is that much difference between the way a lefthander throws; you just have to adjust to the ball."
Lee, the top scorer on the Warbirds with 21 touchdowns and a total of 121 points, had his best game May 21 in the E.J. Nutter Center arena when he collected 15 passes against Cincinnati for 136 yards and four touchdowns
Maurice said he has watched indoor football in Columbus the last couple of years, "so I had an idea of what the game was about."
What he enjoys about the game is the closeness to the fans. "The atmosphere is fantastic and the teams get riled up about the frenzy. I still do have a goal to get to another level. If that happens, it will be great and I'll credit the Warbirds for the opportunity."
FATHER ENJOYS HIS GAMES
Lee brings his father, Kenny, to a lot of the practices, and he goes to the home games. "He just loves football," Maurice said of his father, who was a standout in track when he was in high school.
"What I think is important is not only football, but an opportunity for Maurice to work in the community too," said coach King. "He appreciates being here."
And so does the Warbirds' organization and the City of Dayton.
• Discuss this story on the National Indoor Football League message board...
National Indoor Football League Stories from July 6, 2005
- Ding, Ding, Ding... Round 1 - Everett Hawks
- Rage head for Savvis Center and conference quarterfinal against Cincinnati - RiverCity Rage
- NIFL All Stars Named For First Annual All Star Game - NIFL
- Drillers ready for playoffs - Beaumont Drillers
- Chisholm Champion in Maulers Reading Competition - Montgomery Bears
- Dayton's Maurice Lee appreciates opportunity, sets marks - Dayton Bulldogs
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.