Harrison County

What’s Warren Sapp’s favorite BBQ sauce? The one from Biloxi, of course

Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp made sure he had some of Biloxi’s own J. Lee’s Gourmet BBQ Sauce with him at Super Bowl LI in Houston on Sunday.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp made sure he had some of Biloxi’s own J. Lee’s Gourmet BBQ Sauce with him at Super Bowl LI in Houston on Sunday. Courtesy

About a year ago, James Lee of Biloxi was preparing to take his creation, J. Lee’s Gourmet BBQ Sauce, to Hollywood to be in gift suites for the Academy Awards.

Although Lee will not be making the trek to Los Angeles this year, his product is continuing to make waves in the competitive world of BBQ sauce. Wal-Mart stocks it and so do the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, Winn-Dixie and Rouses Supermarkets. It’s also on its way to Publix stores.

The product has become a favorite of Pro Football Hall of Fame member Warren Sapp, who even took it with him for some tailgating at last weekend’s Super Bowl.

Lee said he challenged the former defensive tackle, who went to the Pro Bowl seven times with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, to try his sauce via social media.

“Warren sent out a tweet of him holding some ribs and I sent him a tweet that said, ‘You need some J. Lee’s Gourmet BBQ Sauce on those ribs,’ ” Lee said. “He accepted my challenge and told me to send him some and I did.”

He said Sapp “loved the sauce” and the two struck up a friendship.

“Man, I have been deep sea fishing with him in Key West — he’s become a good friend of mine,” Lee said. “He even took my sauce with him to South America.”

Although Lee wasn’t able to attend the Super Bowl with Sapp because of his father’s failing health, he said he did accompany Sapp to the Atlanta-Tampa Bay game, where he met some more NFL greats.

“I was at the game with Warren when John Lynch was inducted into the Ring of Honor,” he said. “I got to meet John Lynch and Marshal Faulk and Michael Irvin — they were all real cool guys and I gave them some of my sauce.”

An Ocean Springs soap company and a Biloxi barbecue sauce will be in swag bags at the Academy Awards.

A veteran’s life

Lee started making his sauce when he was enlisted with the U.S. Army, where he did tours in Bosnia, Germany and South Korea between 1995 and 2007.

“My dad had given me a base for the recipe and I took that and made my own thing,” he said. “I never really had any problems finding any ingredients even when I was not in the U.S.”

He said the sauce went over so well that he decided to pursue it full time after he was discharged.

“I owe a lot to my friend Jason McCoy, who I was stationed with in Fort Rucker, Alabama — he’s like a brother to me and he really encouraged me to pursue my dream — I think back so fondly of my time in the military that the logo on my sauce is my in my military dress and I believe I’m the first living person to be in uniform on a product.”

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