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Milton alum Carter Lees part of football history at Harding

“There are very few times I’ve cried tears of joy. That was one of them,” Lees said. “We were ugly crying, hugging each other. It was unreal.”

Harding didn’t just win the national championship. It did it in style, running through the opposition with an undefeated record, finishing 15-0 and punctuating the year with a 38-7 win over top-ranked Colorado School of Mines.

“Going undefeated was just the icing on the cake. It was a product of all the work and detail we put into our season,” Lees said.

The interesting thing about the Bisons is the way they won it all, pounding the ball with a physical run game that produced 6,350 yards, making them the first team in college football history to rush for 6,000 yards in season. Harding threw the ball just 56 times.

“It was about playing for the love of the guy next to you and not worrying about stats or accolades,” Lees said. “We were  concerned about doing our job the best that we can and not worrying about the final score. Everyone bought in.”

Lees graduated from Milton in 2020 and had a chance to see the field a little more this season.

But with Harding running a triple option style offense, getting used to it took time.

“It was like learning a new language because the play style is so different than what you are used to. I became a lot better at run blocking, and overall, my physicality got better,” Lees said.

Lees said he chose Harding because of the faith-based environment it provided. On his visit, he knew it was the right fit and committed that day.

“I wanted to go to school to get a good education and play football, but I also wanted to go to a place that would make me a better man,” Lees said. “What stuck out to me was the environment at the school. It’s not just a Christian college with a  football team. It’s a Christian college with a Christian football team. Our program is about honoring God and playing for each other.”

Lees started playing football at a young age and had the opportunity to be coached by his dad, Harry, in high school.

“I was surrounded by football my whole life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was really special having my dad as a coach,” Lees said.

But that didn’t mean he got special treatment.

“It was evident he coached me harder,” Lees said. “When I got chewed out, it got a little personal, but I needed it. It definitely made me who I am today.”

Lees is headed into his fifth year this fall and looks forward to trying to help Harding win another title.

“You have a target. Everyone wants a piece of the defending national champion,” Lees said. “At the end of the day, it’s about us controlling what we can and getting better every chance we get.”


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