From the moment he arrived at Cherry Creek High School last year, Carson Lee has felt the need to prove himself.
A transfer from Grand Junction, Lee got to Creek just before his sophomore year and, from Day 1, joined the first team offense.
"A bunch of the kids that had been here for a couple years that were at my same position were pretty mad that the new kid was already with the first team, so I had to prove then why I deserved to be first team," Lee said.
"Now I have to prove to them again why I've gotten what I've gotten and I have to show out and continue to improve."
By now, there's no doubt that Lee, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound rising junior, should be in the starting lineup for the Bruins, who are coming off a 9-3 season and looking for better this year. He is quickly becoming one of the hottest in-state prospects for the class of 2020.
Lee has nine scholarship offers, all from Power 5 conference schools. Seven of those offers — from Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, Michigan, Nebraska, Utah and Washington State — have come his way in the past week.
"It's been a really exciting week," he said. "At Creek, in the last two or three weeks, there's been over 50 Division I coaches come in.
"I think people are now seeing my progression from my sophomore film and now seeing what I'm doing (at SixZero Strength & Fitness), just how I've progressed in certain areas in my technique and things like that."
Still very early in the recruiting process, Lee is nowhere near deciding where he will play in college, but there's no question that CU's offer on Tuesday brought some excitement to the Lee household.
"That's always been the goal is to be able to stay home," said Lee, who went to a few CU games last fall and has been on unofficial visits to the school. "All my family, except a pair of aunts and uncles, live in Colorado, so everybody would be able to come to the games.
"My dad played at Wyoming. He's talked to me my whole life about playing for the Buffs. When I got my offer from Oklahoma State (on May 1), he said, 'That's amazing, but keep CU in the back of your mind.'"
Lee has been on track for this type of success for a while.
He began playing for a Cherry Creek feeder team in sixth grade, making the weekly journey from Grand Junction to Denver for three straight seasons. He then played in the Freshman All-American Bowl in January of 2017, was invited to the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in New Orleans last winter and has spent the past two years impressing coaches in camps and on game days.
"My whole life, the goal was to play Division I college football," he said. "The first realization was my freshman year when I got invited to play in the Freshman All-American Bowl. Going down there and playing against kids from all around the country, and I ended up doing really well, so that was like, 'Wow, I can really do this.'"
Lee continues to prove he can play at a high level, and he has displayed his versatility. A center at Grand Junction, he played left tackle at Cherry Creek last year because "that's what they needed," he said.
Projected as an interior lineman in college, Lee said that he believes he's taken his game to a new level this offseason. His efforts include workouts with former CU star and NFL alum Matt McChesney at SixZero Strength and with his position coach at Creek, Det Betti.
"It's so much with the technique, because I understand what needs to be done there; I just need to refine everything and make it the best I can," he said.
"The knowledge of the game is what's helping out the best; at Matt's we watch film all the time and he helps us recognize defenses and things like that, and as a center you have to be a leader of the offensive line and know how to notice that. Now I'm able to do that no problem."
Going forward, Lee will continue to strive to prove himself individually, while helping Cherry Creek aim for a state title.
"I'm not saying we have the best team, but we definitely have the most kids with Division I offers, so that just puts a target on our back," he said. "Everybody is going to want to beat us."