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Jason Lee Named Rugby Player Of The Year

SOCORRO, N.M. May 5, 2014 – Jason Lee has been named the recipient of the Jeremiah Wright Memorial Trophy as New Mexico Tech’s outstanding men’s rugby player for the school year 2013-2014. The junior mechanical engineering student topped a list of honorees recently selected by members of the Pygmies Rugby Club. Jason receives a personalized engraved pewter mug and a nameplate bearing his name appears on the trophy with those of 10 previous recipients.

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Rugby coach Dave Wheelock with Jason Lee (right), the 2013-2014 Jeremiah Wright Memorial Trophy winner.

 

The Jeremiah Wright Memorial Trophy and Cup are awarded in the memory of former Rugby Club captain Jeremiah Wright of Raton, N.M., who died in a motor vehicle accident during his senior year in 2002. Since 2004, 11 names have been affixed to the Jeremiah Wright Trophy, which resides at the Tech gymnasium: Mark Kelly, Rob Harrison, Phillip Turner, Seth Daly, Matt Majors, Matt Nelson, Jay Herrera, Isaiah Sanchez, Enrique Koerdell, Blaine Trujillo, and now Jason Lee.

At a recent event honoring the club’s first forty years, outstanding members were also named as follows:

Rising Star: Moises Veleta

Most Improved: Brian Arko

Outstanding backline player: Steve Bernsen

Outstanding forward: Jason Lee

Best Attacker: Jason Lee

Best Defender: Isaac Juarez

Devoted Service: Jason Lee

Favorite teammate: Matt Perry

Coach’s award: Darien Williams and James Chavez

New Mexico Tech placed second in the Rio Grande Rugby Football Union collegiate division in 2014, dropping the championship match 19-5 to the University of New Mexico on April 5. The Pygmies were led by 2013 Jeremiah Wright Cup winner Blaine Trujillo (head captain), Lee (forwards), and Isaac Juarez (backs). 

The son of Ed and Ellie Gallegos Lee, Jason Lee was born in Sacramento in 1993. The family moved to Albuquerque in 1999, and Jason graduated from Valley High School in 2011. At Valley, Jason was a member of the academic Honors Society, participated in football and track, and as a second-generation Chinese-American, founded the school’s Chinese cultural club.

A self-admitted “scrawny kid,” Jason began weight training at the tender age of 12.

“I guess it didn’t stunt my growth” the 5 foot, 11 inch, 215-pounder recently said with a playful grin. He competed in 100- and 200-meters races and also threw the shot put. In football Jason played defensive end and linebacker. Yet something was missing for the motivated young athlete.

“I played defense, but always wanted a chance to have the ball. This is why I love rugby the most. Everyone gets the ball and anyone can score, but it takes the whole team to make it happen.”

Jason assumed the position of club president in the fall of 2013. His speed and tackle-breaking ability were first required in Tech’s back line. Then when the Pygmies proved short on depth in the engine room of the scrum he showed his unselfishness by switching to the front row of the scrum. As Tech’s scrum stabilized he found himself bound onto the side of the scrum rather than deep within it, and reveled in the relative freedom. From the flanker position he used his strength and speed to help stiffen Tech’s defense as well as support attacking moves, becoming the Pygmies’ leading try-scorer in the process.

Jason’s career and athletic goals both match his philosophy for success.

“My parents, uncle, and godfather all taught me that if I wanted something I must give 100 percent,” he said. “Most people have heard that phrase, but maybe most don’t think about what it really means.

“As a kid I always idolized Iron Man. For a long time I’ve wanted to build my own.” And so Jason continues on a path that may allow him to actually design and build what are sometimes called “powered exoskeletons.” A voracious learner who is not shy about asking questions, he will intern this summer at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Maryland before returning for his senior year at Tech.

His goals are to play rugby “at the highest level” and win a championship at that level. In the rugby world that could mean playing at the territorial or national level in the traditional 15-man game or the increasingly popular 7-man format, to be featured for the first time in the 2016 Brazil Olympics.

As president of the rugby club, Jason earned the respect of his teammates, demonstrated by their conferral of the club’s Devoted Service Award. The feeling is mutual.

“With all its schoolwork Tech can be an isolating place,” he said. “Ultimately it’s about the people you play with – the guys who will tackle and ruck hard and back you up, no matter what.”

Jason Lee will return to Tech for his senior year in August 2014. On May 17, he will play with the Tech side in the Celtic Sevens, a seven-man tournament run in conjunction with the annual Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival. Admission to the festival at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta Park is $15. 

– NMT –

By Dave Wheelock/Tech Rugby Director