Radford High retires Lelie's football jersey
By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stacy Kaneshiro
He's probably heard louder cheers playing in NFL stadiums with the Denver Broncos and at Aloha Stadium with the University of Hawai'i.
But yesterday, Ashley Lelie got the rock-star treatment when he entered Jim Alegre Gymnasium at his alma mater Radford High. The 1998 graduate was honored by the school yesterday when it retired his high school jersey.
"It was kind of surreal," said Lelie, who signed hundreds of autographs and posed for numerous pictures for Radford students. "I was probably sitting up there in these same bleachers as these kids, so it seemed just like yesterday. So to come over here felt good."
Lelie was able to make it for the assembly, which also honored Radford's fall sports teams, because the Broncos have a bye this weekend. A special assembly was scheduled for the spring, but Lelie said his family was unable to make it. But yesterday, his parents, Rene and Annetta, and brother Justin, 23, and sisters, LaShanda, 17, and Ciara, 13, came in from Beaufort, S.C., to be a part of the ceremony that showed Lelie's framed No. 20 jersey.
"Being in a military family, we traveled a lot," Lelie said. "The only people you can really trust is your family. That's why they had to be here."
Lelie joins an elite group of players who had their jersey retired by the late John Velasco, the school's first football coach, principal Bobby Stevens said. Walter Maze (33), Bernard Rembert (22), Homer Jones (32) and Etuale Suafoa (66) have their jersey displayed in a showcase in the gym.
"It's one of the best honors you can have as an athlete," Lelie said. "I don't know how to explain it. It feels so good."
Lelie told the student body he wouldn't have had the opportunity to be in his position had he not been prepared academically in high school. He walked-on at UH, where he earned all-America honors and became the school's highest draft pick when Denver took him in the first round in 2002.
Lelie donated a $26,000 football/baseball scoreboard to the school earlier in the year. Since the fields are adjacent, the scoreboard stands between both fields.
Radford student council president and football receiver Joe Brundidge said Lelie is a perfect role model.
"He always was an outstanding athlete in high school, but the biggest thing was, he only scored one touchdown his senior year," Brundidge said. "I have only one touchdown, so of course he's an inspiration where you can achieve anything. He walked-on at UH, became an all-American and was drafted by the Denver Broncos. If that's not a story to tell, I don't know what else is."
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