Alumni Spotlight: Former Duquesne City valedictorian Daveon Lee works his "dream job" with the Steelers

Posted by Jeremy Tepper on 10/20/2023

When asked about how his mother feels about his success in life, Daveon Lee chuckled and said, “I think she’s pretty proud of me.” Lee, of course, is being a bit deferential.

Nearly 20 years ago, Lee and his mother immigrated from Jamaica to Duquesne, Pennsylvania to live with Lee’s dad. Fast forward to present times, and Lee is an assistant athletic trainer for the Pittsburgh Steelers. For all intents and purposes, it’s a dream job for Lee.

“Me and my mother, we’re very close. I’m her only child. I have half brothers and sisters from my dad, but I’m my mother’s only child,” Lee said. “She’s heavily involved in my life and my family’s life. I’m grateful for everything she’s done to help get me where I am. She had a dream, and I think she’s accomplished hers and she’s helped me be able to accomplish mine.”

Before Lee found his dream job, and made Pittsburgh his home with his wife and two daughters, Lee was the new kid at the Duquesne City School District. He came to the district with just one year of high school left to finish, which he did, graduating in 2004 as the class valedictorian.

In retrospect, Lee looks at his time at Duquesne City and feels grateful. Being the new kid at a school is hard enough. But being the new kid in a new country? That could’ve been really scary. But Lee’s peers and teachers and Duquesne City staff in general made his transition a breeze.

“I’m definitely forever grateful to them for making that transition pretty easy for me. It was an easy, smooth transition,” Lee said. “I really had no problems. There was no culture shock. It was a very welcoming environment. Everyone was really friendly and really nice. I have some people I still talk to from Duquesne that are some of my best friends.”

With just one year left of high school to finish, Lee came to the American schooling system in an interesting spot. Admittingly, Lee said he didn’t know much about American colleges, and what processes he needed to follow. But counselors at Duquesne City guided the way, and Lee — being the bright, young scholar that he was — did the rest with ease.

“They put me in my position to do what I needed to do. I didn’t know anything about the American college system and what I needed to do, and they put me in a good position,” Lee said. “They helped me do the things I needed to do while my mom was getting settled in America.”

With a desire to stay close to his new home, Lee decided to attend the University of Pittsburgh after high school. He received an academic scholarship and declared as undecided with a pre-med track.

“Growing up I thought being a doctor was cool, so I just said pre-med. But I really didn’t know what I wanted to do as an adult,” Lee said.

An open house at the rehab science program sparked Lee’s interest in athletic training. Lee had always loved playing and observing sports. He played soccer back in Jamaica and then basketball at Duquesne City.  Being able to incorporate that aspect into a medical field made athletic training an obvious fit.

From there on, Lee’s love for athletic training only grew. As part of achieving his degree, Lee had to do clinical rotations, one of which he did at the West Mifflin School District. The hands-on experiences validated Lee’s decision.

“That’s where my love for the profession really developed,” Lee said. 

After graduating from Pitt in 2009, Lee worked at Latrobe High School for three years as an athletic trainer before going back to Pitt to achieve a master's degree in sports medicine. Afterwards, he took an athletic training internship working for the Steelers for two years before being offered a full-time position in 2016 as an assistant athletic trainer.

“Considering it’s in the city that I now consider home, working for our team, I’d say it’s a dream job for me,” Lee said.

Throughout the course of a week, Lee works hand-in-hand with the Steelers players, helping them prepare and rehabilitate their bodies before and after practices. During a game day, Lee gets to the stadium four hours before the start time, helping players with taping their bodies and stretching. If someone happens to get hurt during a game, Lee is there to help them get better and return to the game, or work with them if they can’t return.

That close working relationship is something Lee deeply values about his job. 

“The medicine part of it, you work closely with people and you get to help people be better,” Lee said. “You’re with these guys everyday, so you see the progress daily. You really get to see the reward of what you do.”

Lee said his best days at work are the ones when he’s not very busy, when players’ bodies are holding up, and he can just stand and take it in. It’s in those moments that Lee sometimes thinks about just how far he’s come, and how grateful he is to be in the position he’s in.

“These guys are the best at what they do in the country, and I get to see them showcase their abilities and help them be able to do that," Lee said. "I feel good about what I do."