From rags to riches is an overused cliche, but for Marqise Lee it perfectly describes his journey to the 2014 NFL Draft.
Lee is one of five 2014 first-round NFL Draft prospects featured on ESPN's Draft Academy, a four-week series that provides insight into the lives of these athletes.
"Draft Academy follows some of the most talented, talked-about prospects as they train in pursuit of a top spot in the 2014 NFL Draft," said Matthew Volk, ESPN director, programming and acquisitions. "The show will give fans an intimate look at these players as they pursue their goals of making it to the NFL."
Through this mini-documentary, fans learn Lee was destined for greatness long before he ever picked up a football. At a young age Lee was taken away from his mother and placed in the foster care system where he lived in motels and with different families until high school. He was then adopted by the family of one of his friends and teammate.
While in the foster care system, Lee began following behind his brothers who were in a local gang. One of his brothers was the victim of a gang-related shooting while his other brother was jailed. Despite such a tumultuous upbringing, Lee can rarely be found without a bright smile and a positive perspective on the most bleak situations.
Oh, not to mention he is fluent in sign language. Both of Lee's biological parents are deaf, so he and his siblings picked up the language in order to communicate with them.
Moving story on ESPN about @TeamLee1...good luck young man. Well wishes for draft day and your career.— Jamie Foxx (@iamjamiefoxx) April 22, 2014
USC fans and coaches alike were taken by storm when Lee stepped foot on Howard Jones field during fall camp his freshman year. The season prior, fellow Junipero Serra graduate Robert Woods had already outlined a blueprint for the star, breaking several school and conference records.
Lee lived up to the hype opposite Woods with his undeniable athleticism and high football IQ over the past three seasons.
There were high expectations with the success and accolades that Lee accumulated after his freshman season. Yet again, Lee did not disappoint earning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and becoming USC's leading receiver for the second year in a row.
After suffering a severe knee injury in his junior season, Lee just was not the same. His draft stock reflected it.
"I was looking at those draft boards every week watching my stock drop lower and lower," Lee said during an interview after the 2013 season. "It was disappointing, so I had to stop looking for a while."
Following Lee's troubled junior season where he was sidelined by the knee injury, he made the decision to forego his senior season and declare for the draft. For many NFL teams, the jury was still out on whether Lee would return to the rare form he once displayed. Then the NFL Combine rolled around.
"I thought the combine went great," Lee said. "I know a lot of people thought I should have ran again, but I think my tape is strong enough and speaks for itself."
The National Football League has also announced that the prolific Trojan will be one of the prospects attending the 2014 NFL Draft live from Radio City Music Hall.
NFL DRAFT PROJECTIONS
Sports Illustrated- No. 26 Cleveland Browns
CBSSports.com- No. 23 Kansas City Chiefs
ESPN.com Mel Kiper- No. 23 Kansas City Cheifs
NFL.com Charles Davis- No. 28 Carolina Panthers