Largely known as being one of the biggest busts of all-time, Ryan Leaf is transforming his image and persona and is trying to tell his story to upcoming, young football prospects. After his brief stint in the NFL, things only got worse for Leaf before they got better. Leaf has spent almost the same amount of time in the NFL has he has in Prison, 32 months in prison and a 4 year NFL career. Leaf’s NFL career is a distant memory and he is making the most out of his second attempt at life.
I don’t believe I was meant to be a professional quarterback… I was meant to have these life experiences and be an impact on others who’ve struggled.- Ryan Leaf
Ryan Leaf was a Heisman finalist along with Peyton Manning that year. They were drafted 1 and 2. They had much different pedigrees. Manning, was a NFL QB’s son and a much more clean-cut person than was Leaf. Ryan Leaf always held himself to a much higher standard because he was always linked to Peyton. Something he can never shake.
About 14 years ago, Ryan Leaf was prescribed Vicodin to nurse a wrist injury and abused it for a few years until he got clean in 2008. Leaf dealt with two relapses by 2011. In 2011, Leaf was diagnosed with a brain tumor mixed with radiation, he then spiraled out of control with his Vicodin addiction. He was the Quarterbacks coach for West Texas A & M from 2006-2008 but resigned after he asked one of his players for pain medication and was even caught stealing players’ pain medication.
In 2014, Leaf was found guilty of felony burglary and possession of dangerous drugs. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison but was released after 32 months. While being in bracelets behind bars, Leaf was able to get a much clearer perception of life and love. He has had everything taken from him, which was completely on him. He is now doing the best he can to ensure the new generation doesn’t fall into the same trap. Recently reaching out to Johnny Manziel and Baker Mayfield.
The fact that I played football tends to get our foot in the door to maybe some closed-minded people who wouldn’t necessarily take a look at getting help. Or they can relate maybe more to a guy who had everything, seemingly had everything, wasted it all, and has found this peaceful life.- Ryan Leaf
Leaf preaches time and again that he doesn’t blame anyone for not believing his new-found self is authentic, he’s at peace with that. He can’t say for sure if he’ll ever slide back into addiction but he has a day by day approach to life and constantly shares his past screw-ups with high school players and collegiate players. In 2017, he actually attended the draft for the first time since he was drafted by the Chargers in 1998 to analyze the players selected. A few years ago Ryan Leaf even wrote a letter to his younger self breaking down his life as you’ve never heard it before. The most honest person you’ve ever seen. The only thing Leaf would change in his career path, would be that he treated people better. Can’t get mad at this man for wanting to use his past has a teaching tool to young standout players like he was. Not to make the same mistake he made.
So if I have just one piece of advice to leave you with, it would be … don’t be a dick, man. You’ll be amazed at how much you get back when you just treat other people with dignity and respect. And it feels pretty damn good.- Ryan Leaf in Letter To Younger Self