2023 Football

NC A&T’s Ricky Lee makes the NFL grade

Undrafted rookie free agent earns a spot on 53-man NFL roster.

Offensive lineman Ricky Lee III and running back Emmanuel Wilson are the two undrafted HBCU rookie free agents who made 53-man rosters after NFL teams announced cutdowns on Tuesday. 

Wilson, a former running back at Fort Valley State and Johnson C. Smith, shined in the preseason for Green Bay. Lee, who spent the last two seasons at NC A&T after transferring from rival NC Central, operated in virtual obscurity for the Carolina Panthers. 

While Lee may have been obscure to the public, the Panthers were obviously enamored with his play. 

Ricky Lee makes his case

Lee played in all three preseason games for Carolina and impressed new Panthers’ head coach Frank Reich and offensive line coach Frank Campen. The Panthers kept eight offensive lineman, three rookies at the position, including Lee.

In his story Tuesday about Carolina’s 53-man roster on the Panthers’ website, writer Darin Gantt said, “Lee’s a raw talent, but he has a lot of talent.” 

Lee is listed at 6-5 and between 289 and 305 pounds, depending upon which website you consult. He is considered rather small for a modern offensive lineman. What he lacks in size however he makes up for with his movement. 

A former high school basketball player in his native Jacksonville, Fla., Lee has brought the footwork and agility used on the hardwood to the gridiron.  

The Ricky Lee resume

Lee at NC A&T

Lee spent his last two seasons as the starting left offensive tackle at NC A&T. He was a 2022 second team all-Big South Conference selection as a graduate senior. Before that he started on the offensive line at rival NC Central for two seasons. 

Lee played under Aggies offensive line coach Ron Mattes who has guided a host of his pupils to all-conference honors. Brandon Parker, a former Aggie and two-time lineman of the year in the MEAC, was a third round NFL Draft pick in 2018. Parker was placed on injured reserve and released by the Las Vegas Raiders recently after suffering season-ending injuries for the second straight season.

Lee is now left to carry the A&T banner on the NFL level.

“A lot of guys don’t get this opportunity,” Lee told the Charlotte (N. C.) Post when he was signed in May. “My dream finally came true. I’m blessed to be here. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Being part of the top one percent is a blessing. I can’t really describe . . . I’m speechless.”

He’ll likely have less or perhaps more to say now.

NC A&T’s Ricky Lee makes the NFL grade
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