Record-breaking QB, receiver ready to lead Power's passing game
During lunch one day on the South Side, Aaron Lesue lifted the dog tag that hangs around his neck and showed it to everyone at the table.
No one asked to see it, but Lesue didn't care. The dog tag was worn by his father, Michael Wayne Lesue, who died in a parachuting accident in Korea in 1984. Aaron was 2.
“I wear it as a reminder of my goals,” said Lesue, who has plenty of them.
Foremost is playing wide receiver for the Power and joining new quarterback Tommy Grady on the team's almost totally rebuilt Arena Football League roster. When training camp opens Friday at Southpointe Fieldhouse, they will bring to Pittsburgh from the defunct Utah Blaze one of the most potent pass-catch combinations in indoor football history.
Yet there is so much more to Lesue's story.
He also participates in three other sports: rugby, bobsledding and skeleton.
Lesue is a member of the U.S. development team in rugby, a sport that overlaps the indoor football season. This fall, however, he will resume training in the other two in hopes of competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“That would be a very special thing,” he said of going to Korea where his father died.
“It's kind of difficult because I don't have an offseason,” said Lesue, 31, who didn't pursue those sports until after he left Utah State in 2009. “I go from one season to the next to the next.”
Lesue is motivated by newspaper clippings that trumpet his father's accomplishments as a two-time Missouri state champion running back, a sprinter and pole vaulter.
“When I was a little boy,” Lesue said, “I said, ‘Hey, I want to be a professional football player, be in the Olympics, break a world record.' I wanted to do those things that are similar to what my dad was like.”
So far, he has made the greatest impact on indoor football.
In four seasons with Grady and the Blaze, Lesue had 313 receptions for 3,703 yards and 104 touchdowns.
The football was thrown by the Utah Jazz mascot from a 365-foot-tall crane. It was traveling 86 mph in high winds and left a bruise on his arm, he said.
When the Blaze folded after last season, the AFL assigned Lesue and Grady to the Power, who are remaking their roster after losing 27 of 36 games the past two seasons. Both players signed three-year contracts that are designed to help the franchise's quest for stability.
The 6-foot-7, 250-pound Grady was AFL MVP in 2012 when he set league records in several categories, including throwing 12 touchdown passes in a game against the Cleveland Gladiators. That's three times as many as he threw in his senior season at Utah in 2007. In four indoor seasons, Grady has thrown for 18,112 yards and 397 touchdowns.
Grady will become the Power's 13th starting quarterback in four seasons.
“Players are going to follow good quarterback play,” coach Derek Stingley said. “The recruiting process this year was so much better. We are plugging holes.”
In a quarterback-driven league that takes time for outdoor players to master, Lesue said, the Power have found their on-field leader.
“If Tommy is protected,” he said, “as long as the receivers are running the right routes at the right depths and being where they need to be, Tommy will get the ball where it needs to go.”