PawPaw powers Florence

FLORENCE, Miss. (WJTV) – Florence junior running back Degerrick Lee doesn’t really get called Degerrick too often. Just call him by the nickname he’s had since he was a little kid: “PawPaw.”

“He got it from his mother,” Florence head coach Steve Pruett said.

“When I was getting dressed, she used to put overalls on me and she used to pull them all the way up,” Lee said.

“He was laying on the bed,” Lee’s mother Syretta Johnson said. “I came back in and his pants were like up to his neck. I looked at him, I was like, ‘Boy, you look like a PawPaw.'”

So maybe everyone knows the Eagle running back as a grandpa. But he’s got quite a bit of grown man strength that’s on display with every carry.

“I’m a power back,” Lee said. “But also, I got little moves up my sleeve. So if you think I’m just going to always run you over, I have something different for you.”

He’s been showing off his whole skill set this season while being his team’s workhorse. Lee has rushed 111 times for 753 yards with seven touchdowns through five games.

“He comes from a pop wood family,” Pruett said. “They’re used to working hard like that, so we’re putting it on him.”

But that workmanlike approach isn’t the only thing Lee has in his genes.

“His dad was great,” Pruett said. “His dad was a fantastic player, a real gritty football player.”

Pruett coached Lee’s father, Gerrick Lee, at Mendenhall. The elder Lee also went on to play at Copiah-Lincoln Community College. He died in a car accident in 2012. Pruett said his star running back reminds him of Gerrick Lee.

“I see a lot of his father,” Pruett said. “They’re just both iron tough, hard to bring down.”

“No, we’re different,” Lee said. “Because he played wide receiver and stuff. I play running back. He was faster than me.”

“They’re like twins,” Johnson said.

Lee has found different ways to carry the memory of his father with him this season. One of them can be seen with the number 10 he wears on his uniform.

“He changed numbers this year to have the number his dad had,” Johnson said.

“I also talk to him and pray before the game, just tell him to watch over me,” Lee said.

What he sees is his son bearing his name and number, carrying his memory on every carry.

What we all see is a PawPaw paying tribute to his papa.

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