Ryan Leaf’s journey was nowhere near perfect, but it has seemingly landed in a pretty good place.
Leaf will forever be known as one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, the second pick behind Peyton Manning in 1998. He then saw his life spiral out of control due to drugs, and he spent time in jail.
Leaf came all the way back. He got sober. He started sharing his story openly and honestly, to help others. He got a job at ESPN last year.
This week, he found himself on one of ESPN’s signature shows, talking about the sport that was the reason he stayed in the spotlight during his darkest years. Pretty cool.
Ryan Leaf on ‘NFL Live’
Leaf happily tweeted out a photo and message after his first time co-hosting “NFL Live,” one of ESPN’s midday staples.
How’s this for a story...2nd Pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. Crash & Burn so bad many consider the biggest draft bust ever, goes to prison, chooses to get back up and carry on. 6 years later, employed by @espn living the dream and cohosting #nfllive for the 1st time today! #soberlife pic.twitter.com/SwjxdqzOzJ— Ryan D Leaf (@RyanDLeaf) March 5, 2020
Leaf also proudly sent a picture of him talking about the NFL draft on “SportsCenter.”
That’s quite a comeback.
Leaf’s rocky journey
Leaf was a phenomenal college quarterback at Washington State. Famously, “Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf?” was a real question before the 1998 draft. Manning went on to be the only five-time NFL MVP in history. Leaf, petulant and unlikeable from the day he go to the San Diego Chargers, failed in an astonishing way.
Plenty of draft picks fail, but it got a lot worse. Leaf hit rock bottom in 2012, when he pleaded guilty for felony burglary and criminal possession of a dangerous drug. In 2014, he violated his probation in Texas when he broke into a home in Montana to steal prescription drugs.
Leaf turned his life around and last summer ESPN hired him to be a college football analyst. He’s obviously doing well to get a shot on “NFL Live” this week.
Leaf certainly has a perspective about football and life that not many others can match.
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