Lee not laughing after heat limits his time in opener
Daily News Sports Reporter
When the B.C. Football Conference schedule was announced earlier this year, Tyler Lee must have thought the Kamloops Broncos were playing a cruel joke on him.
Lee, who plays defensive end and tight end for the junior Broncos, starred in the team's season-opening 64-10 victory over the Chilliwack Huskers at Hillside Stadium on Sunday. He and the Broncos will take on the Okanagan Sun (0-1) this Sunday, 5 p.m., at Hillside Stadium.
For their first four seasons, the Broncos played home games almost exclusively on Saturday evenings, under the stadium lights and cooler skies. Last season, for the first time, the team played a Sunday afternoon game, and apparently liked the idea.
The Broncos scheduled their first two home games for Sunday afternoons, right in the thick of the hottest weather of the year. Against Chilliwack, the temperature hit 38 degrees, and it was even hotter at field level.
Football players are tough cookies, and Lee, a rarity in that he plays on both sides of the ball, is no different.
But the 21-year-old Vernon native is playing with Type 1 diabetes, and the heat did a number on him Sunday. He made his point known to Broncos president Dino Bernardo.
"I told Dino that this was the worst idea ever," he said of the afternoon scheduling.
That's not to say Lee wasn't effective on Sunday. In fact, he was named the team's player of the game, and there wasn't a soul among the 496 attendees who would have disagreed.
Less than five minutes into the game, with his side already leading 7-0, Lee made a nice catch on a pass from quarterback Jesse Neufeld for a 22-yard touchdown.
On the Broncos' first offensive play of the second half, Steve Schuweiler, who came in to replace an injured Neufeld, hit a streaking Lee, who dashed 71 yards for another touchdown.
Lee also was effective defensively, constantly creating a nuisance for Chilliwack quarterback Braden Churly, and recording a big sack in Kamloops territory in the second quarter. The sack, which pushed the Huskers back 12 yards, also pushed the ball beyond kicker Dan Erickson's range - he came up a few yards short on a valiant 49-yard attempt.
That's a pretty good game for Lee - but he only played the first half, plus that long touchdown play in the second half.
At the end of the day, the heat and the diabetes weren't a good match.
"I was pounding back oranges and bananas and water the whole game," he said. "But I was ge tting really stiff, that's why I came out early.
"The night games don't affect me that much, but when I sweat so much, it gets worse."
Lee has been dealing with the diabetes - it's a genetic form - since he was 14 years old.
"I was in Grade 9," he explained. "I just got sick one day, but I kept playing sports."
He has had to make changes to his day-to-day life, especially with him constantly exercising and playing football. He has to watch what he eats and how much of it, as well as keep on top of his blood-sugar levels. Lee takes insulin through a pen throughout the day.
"I just put a little needle tip on the end of the pen, dial up how much insulin I want and start poking," he said. "Stick it in the hip, butt, arms . . . I do it lots - close to eight or nine times a day."
And while some athletes are able to play while wearing insulin pumps in their abdomen, Lee sticks with the pens.
"I tried the pump out, but it didn't really work with the football," he said. "With sweating and hitting the ground, it just tears the lancet out."
For Broncos head coach Duncan Olthuis, having Lee on the roster has been a real positive.
Olthuis was defensive co-ordinator before he became head coach in 2011 - he still runs the defence - so got to see firsthand how much Lee does for the Broncos.
"We tell him to do one thing, he'll do it, and he never questions anything," Olthuis said. "He's a great kid, and to be playing this game with diabetes, it's pretty tough of him.
"(He's) just a great kid and great athlete."
Lee is having fun - he wouldn't be doing it if he wasn't - and the Broncos' early success certainly helps.
In his first four seasons, the Broncos won eight games and lost 32, never qualifying for the playoffs.
"This is my fifth year, so I've been through the struggles and the ass-kickings," Lee said. "It feels awesome to be on this side of it (against Chilliwack) - first time we've put up 64 points."