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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lelie's got catching up to do

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

The Ashley Lelie we remember took on challenges the same way he confronted defensive backs, head-on and with relish.

When the University of Hawai'i football team didn't offer him a scholarship out of Radford High, he walked on and earned one. When the Warriors made highly touted but troubled junior college transfer Attrice Brooks a starting wide receiver, Lelie came on to beat him out and become the school's first NFL first-round pick.

When Fresno State double-covered him in the fourth quarter of a memorable 2001 game, Lelie still beat 'em three times on the go-head drive, including the winning score. And when Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan challenged him after the 2003 season, Lelie responded with the best year of his four-year career.

So, what are we to make of this off-season stare-down with the Broncos? One where Lelie has blown off the so-called "voluntary" workouts while walking away from a $100,000 bonus in a huff over being the No. 3 receiver.

A player of remarkable potential and, at times, eye-opening feats, you now see him described in the Denver media as the "wayward Lelie" and the "Broncos' unhappy wide receiver."

We're told Lelie's new agent after splitting with the previous group is trying to arrange a trade and that there could still be a positive resolution. Though you have to wonder in the face of Lelie maintaining to the Denver Post: "Me coming back is definitely out of the question at this point with me being the No. 3 receiver."

Even Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, a part-time Hawai'i resident, has weighed in on the controversy. "Like everyone else, I'm disappointed," Bowlen told the Post. "Because of my connections with Hawai'i, I've probably watched more University of Hawai'i games than anybody else in Colorado ...

"He's not holding out yet, but if he does, like everybody else around here, I think he would be making a mistake."

Indeed, as the final season of a five-year, $7.1 million contract, the upcoming season is Lelie's "money year." It should be the time to go all-out and establish future value. Show your stuff and, chances are, you can pick your next team and location of accompanying mansion.

Meanwhile, you have to like the attitude of Broncos' backup quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt. With Denver drafting Jay Cutler, it seems as if Van Pelt's days are numbered. But a feisty Van Pelt has been on-scene, ready to prove himself and telling the media, "don't bet against me, boys."

Sounds a lot like the Lelie we remember. And, one we hope to see again.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.