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Saturday, April 20, 2002
Lelie excited to be heading to Denver

By Ashley Lelie with Wayne Drehs

BEAUFORT, S.C. -- In the end, it felt like the day after Christmas. My friends and family were all gone, I had opened my lone present -- a No. 19 selection to the Denver Broncos -- and all the excitement, anticipation and nerves had transferred to fatigue.

But, man what a day.

As expected, things went unexpectedly, with the New Orleans Saints, Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons -- all teams that people thought were interested in me, taking a pass, leaving me for Denver.

I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a nerve-racking. We were here at my parents house in South Carolina and after about pick No. 10, everyone in the room thought I was going to that team.

No! Not him, not there
Ashley Lelie going to the Broncos is not what I wanted to see -- we (the Raiders) don't need the Broncos with another threat like Lelie. But it's good for him -- he's with the right team -- the Broncos have one of the most consistently explosive offenses in the NFL. If Lelie does indeed have the talent June Jones claims he has, the Broncos will bring it out of him. He's got a great group of guys to work with.
-- Tim Brown, Raiders wide receiver
When the Falcons traded down from No. 17 to No. 18, allowing the Raiders to move up and take Phillip Buchanon, we all figured that meant the Falcons would draft me. But as the clock continued to click, my cell phone never rang. I just sat here, waiting to see if my agent, or maybe Falcons coach Dan Reeves would call, but it never happened.

When Paul Tagliabue went to the stage with the pick, I knew it wasn't me. Still, one of my relatives shouted, "Ashley Lelie is a Falcon."

I reminded them, though, that my phone didn't ring. I wasn't going to be a Falcon. From there, I really didn't have any idea where I might go. I wanted to go to a strong team with a good running game, but other than that, I really didn't care.

Denver had about two minutes left on the clock when my cell phone finally rang. It was my agent, Doug Hendrickson, telling me that the Broncos had called him and were going to take me.

I was real excited, but didn't want to show it yet until things were final. A minute later, my phone rang again and it was the Denver receivers coach telling me I was a Bronco. At that point, I gave my family the thumbs up, motioned to my dad to turn the volume up on the TV and listened for the commissioner to read my name.

It was a strange feeling. Something you really can't put into words. The entire room, probably 20 people, were jumping up and down, screaming and yelling. I had a smile on my face from ear to ear.

After the pick, it was pure craziness. Every method of communication -- from my two cell phones to my pager to my parents' house phone -- was ringing endlessly. The Broncos were calling, trying to schedule my flight out to visit them. Their coaches were calling to congratulate and welcome me. My agent was calling. A bunch of radio stations were calling, wanting me to do interviews.

It was a busy, crazy time. At one point, I had a phone in each ear and two other phones next to me that wouldn't stop ringing. But as quickly as it the craziness started, it ended.

My family started to leave, the phone stopped ringing and I was finally able to relax and let things soak in a little bit. I was sitting with my dad later in the afternoon watching the draft and he said to me, "I can't believe I'm watching your name flash along the bottom of the screen in the NFL draft. I can't believe it."

Indeed, it is a strange feeling. But I couldn't be more excited. At the beginning, my agent told me that the team that talks to you least and shows you the least amount of attention will be the one that picks you on draft day. And that was certainly the case with Denver.

I talked to one of their scouts and their receivers coach at the combine, but that was really about it. But it couldn't be a better fit. Some people might think my injured hamstring hurt my stock and it probably did a bit, but going to Denver is an enormous blessing in disguise. They have two phenomenal receivers in Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey that I can learn under, not to mention a future Hall of Famer in Shannon Sharpe.

It's a great coaching staff and there's an awesome running game, which really helps open things up for the receivers. So I'm excited to get to Denver and see how things workout. In my opinion, it's a team that's just a couple players away from getting to the Super Bowl. And I can't wait to contribute to that ultimate goal.

It's a process that will begin tomorrow, when I fly to Denver to meet my new coaches, teammates as well as the Colorado media. Though some people think Saturday was the end of this process, it was actually just the beginning.

Just the first page in the next chapter of my life.

Editor's note: On Monday, will take you behind the scenes of Ashley Lelie's whirlwind NFL draft weekend. From watching the draft in South Carolina to arriving in Denver and discovering a new city, will be there, in the latest installment of "Making the Leap."