IRVING, Texas - The awards poured in for rookie linebacker Sean Lee after his two-interception performance in leading the Dallas Cowboys to a 38-35 overtime victory against the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday.
One day after being nominated for NFC rookie of the week and the GMC Never Say Never moment of the week, Lee on Wednesday was named the NFC defensive player of the week.
But that goes with the territory when you have a coming-out party featuring three-time MVP quarterback Peyton Manning as the court jester.
Lee, who faces the Eagles this Sunday in Irving, Texas, took advantage of his most extensive playing time, picking off two Manning passes, returning one 31 yards for a touchdown and setting up the game-winning field goal in overtime with the other.
Ordinarily his phone would be ringing with calls and messages from friends, family, and well-wishers. But his cellphone was not working properly, so he missed some calls.
"I get waves of texts when my phone gets service, which is rare," Lee said. "It's been fun. My parents were at the game. My brother was there. We were in shock afterward. It was just great playing against Peyton Manning. He is larger than life. That was an honor itself. To get two picks was a dream come true."
It's probably all for the best that Lee hasn't been distracted by the well-wishers. Lee is not an attention-monger, besides the fact that he still has some catching up to do.
The most surprising thing about Lee's coming-out party is not that it came against Manning, but that it took so long to occur. Although the former Penn State star was picked in the second round of this year's NFL draft, he was considered a first-round talent. The Cowboys had him rated in the top 16 picks of the draft.
Interim coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys liked everything about Lee - his passion, his play, his instincts - and there were no holes in his game or his attitude.
"He was a complete linebacker as both a run defender and a pass defender and the type of person he is," Garrett said. "He loves to play football. He's very passionate about it."
But nagging knee injuries that plagued the Pittsburgh native in college, thus lowering his value on draft day, slowed his development.
He was limited in training camp and the preseason. The time away showed up most in pass coverage, preventing the Cowboys from using him more to spell veteran linebackers Bradie James and Keith Brooking.
But Lee has played more as he's gotten healthy and is finally displaying the talents the Cowboys always knew he had.
"Certainly the injuries hurt him," Garrett said. "What's positive about Sean Lee is the way he goes about his business every day. He's a tremendous practice player, and he's committed to preparing the best he can."
Said Lee: "That was frustrating not being able to play. I just kept working through it. I got better each week. I got a few weeks together and got the confidence of the coaches. Now I'm in position where I'm confident, and I feel I can contribute."
Lee had four solo tackles against Detroit on Nov. 21 and followed with a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble against New Orleans on Thanksgiving Day.
Brooking suffered a sprained foot in the Saints game, opening the way for Lee to gain more playing time.
"[Brooking] . . . didn't play as much as he's been playing because of the foot, and that gave Sean the opportunity to go play, and he did a good job, both in the run game and as a pass defender," Garrett said.
Lee caught the attention of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who said "he made a couple of serious instinctive plays that there's no way to coach."
He also impressed the man he replaced.
"We've been saying all along he's a playmaker," Brooking said. "The sky's the limit for him. He just hasn't had a lot of opportunities because he has two studs in front of him."
Lee will likely replace Brooking next season if the move isn't made in the next few weeks as the Cowboys start evaluating players. Considering that Brooking, 35, is in his 13th season, this was always the plan.
Lee's body needs to hold up to make it happen. He was limited in practice this week with a sprained shoulder. But that's part of the normal aches and pains of playing the position and not considered something chronic.
Lee said nothing would keep him off the field Sunday against the Eagles.
"My focus is just working to get better. I can't get caught up in one game," he said. "The shoulder is fine. I'm playing."