Lelie expects 'nerve-racking' days
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
He has exchanged greetings with LL Cool J, chit-chatted with John Madden and contributed material to ESPN.com for a weekly diary.
But today, for the first time since applying for the National Football League draft, former University of Hawai'i wide receiver Ashley Lelie is expecting the butterflies.
"It's going to be nerve-racking," said Lelie, who is preparing for today's opening of the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
For three days, NFL scouts, personnel directors, general managers and coaches will test and assess prospects.
As a highly rated prospect from a nationally unheralded school, Lelie expects to be the focus of scrutiny that will determine his value in next month's draft. Lelie is projected to be selected between the middle of the first round and middle of the second round.
"It's too early to tell," he said.
Last month in Atlanta, where he has been working out, Lelie ran 40 yards in an electronically timed 4.25 seconds. That is believed to be the fastest 40-yard dash by any of this year's prospects.
Through an intensive weight-and-conditioning program, the 6-foot-3 Lelie is now 203 pounds, 13 more than what he weighed in December.
Still, there are concerns, such as the condition of his tender left hamstring.
"It's tweaked," he said. "It's going to be, I guess, a game-day decision. If it's really sore and I think I'm going to damage it, I won't run (at the combine). I'm not going to take any chances."
Lelie, 22, said he looks forward "to the end of the combine. After it's over, I think I can calm down and relax."
He said he is scheduled to return to Hawai'i Monday, where he will reclaim the room in a house that he shares with six others.
Lelie said he has no regrets about applying for the draft.
"I felt it was time to leave," he said.
Although he needs three semesters to earn a bachelor's degree, Lelie said, "I needed the break from school. I'll go back and get my degree."
He remains in contact with several former UH teammates, including quarterback Nick Rolovich and slotback Channon Harris, and admitted to missing "working out with the guys. I hear they're doing well."
By applying for the draft, Lelie is forfeiting his scholarship. He has earned money by subletting his room. He also received a small loan from his sports management company.
"Nothing has changed," he said. "I bought some clothes and stuff, but nothing big."
If he is drafted in the first round and receives a large signing bonus, Lelie said, he already has plans for the money.
"I want to buy my parents a house," he said. "They're renting now. They've never owned their own house."
After his father retired from the military in 1999, his parents moved from Hawai'i to South Carolina. His father is a post office manager.
"I want to pay them back," Lelie said. "They raised me, and they were always there for me. They helped get me into sports. None of this is possible without their help."