Before he was burning up country music playlists with songs like “A Woman Like You,” “Love Like Crazy,” and “I Don’t Dance,” Kenneth Mobley Brice — you know him as Lee Brice — was a born and bred Sumter, South Carolina native. Growing up, Brice learned to sing and play piano in church at the age of seven. In high school, Brice’s musical aptitude was obvious as he won his high school talent show three-straight years. He was destined to be a country star, but that wasn’t Brice’s only passion.
Growing up in South Carolina, there were two things Brice was passionate about — music and football. In addition to a budding music career, Brice played the game throughout high school, and standing 6-foot-3, he’s hard to miss no matter where he goes. That passion and natural ability led him to Clemson University, where Brice would realize his childhood dream to play college football for the mighty Clemson Tigers.
“At Clemson, I was an invited walk-on, and I went through the walk-on process. They pulled me up about halfway through it, and they said, get yourself a starting position, and you’ll get a free ride. And I did. It was my life’s goal at that moment — to earn my way to a starting spot, and I did it. That was almost like the goal of my whole life—to be validated and to able to say, ‘I played for Clemson.'”
— Lee Brice, h/t Palmetto Magazine
Brice earned an athletic scholarship as a long snapper after joining the team in 1998 under head coach Tommy West, but unfortunately, a severe arm injury never gave him the opportunity to dominate on the field.
“[A]t that point when I got hurt it was like OK, and then it just wasn’t going to get better. My elbow just got completely kind of destroyed,” Brice told Taste of Country Nights in 2014.
Brice said that his injury “didn’t really break my heart” because he had already realized his dream of wearing orange and white and earned his spot on the Clemson football team. With football gone, Brice decided that finishing a civil engineering degree wasn’t his true passion. So, he packed up his things, left Clemson, and headed for Nashville, Tennessee.
Aside from writing country songs for artists Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean, and Garth Brooks among many others, Brice signed his own deal with Curb Records in 2007 and the rest is history.
Brice’s love for Clemson didn’t end when he hung up his football pads, however. He’s returned to the school several times to perform at the Littlejohn Coliseum, and he even recorded his own Clemson Tigers fight song titled “Orange Empire.”
“Death Valley, eighty thousand strong,
Our boys standin’ on the top of the hill
Can you feel the rumble comin’ on?
We’re about to impose our will on you,
Nowhere to run nowhere to hide
You shoulda known when you stepped inside”
— Orange Empire by Lee Brice
When the Clemson Tigers, Heisman Trophy favorite Trevor Lawrence, and head coach Dabo Swinney take the field to defend their 2018 national championship, you can guarantee the 39-year-old former Clemson Tiger will be watching his favorite team closely all season long.