Legendary Coug quarterback Ryan Leaf named to National College Hall of Fame ballot

Leaf proud to have healed from troubled past, first appearance on ballot



WSU alumni and ex-quarterback Ryan Leaf throws a pass during the 2022 Spring Game, April 23, 2022, at Martin Stadium.

JAKE HULL, Evergreen reporter

Former WSU Quarterback Ryan Leaf has been named to the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame ballot. 

He was one of 80 players and nine coaches to be added to the ballot for 2023. This is the first time that Leaf has appeared on the ballot. 

The College Football Hall of Fame was first introduced in 1951 with the idea to immortalize and showcase the top collegiate athletic careers. 

Of the roughly 5 million collegiate players and coaches who have played football, only around 1,300 athletes and coaches have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. 

The 2023 class will be inducted and have their names placed in the Hall of Fame on Dec. 5, 2023. Their names will be on display in Atlanta. Recipients’ home programs will host an on-campus salute to their inductee during the 2023 football season.

Leaf was at WSU for four seasons from 1994-97. He helped head the Cougar football team that played in the 1998 Rose Bowl. 

Leaf set conference and school senior-season records for touchdown passes and offensive yards during his last season at WSU. 

In 1997, he won the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award and finished third in votes for the Heisman Trophy. Randy Moss finished fourth in the Heisman vote while Peyton Manning finished second behind the 1997 recipient, Charles Woodson. 

Leaf’s third-place finish for the Heisman is the highest in school history. 

Other awards Leaf earned while at WSU include the Sammy Baugh Award, awarded to the best college passer in the nation, as well as being a Sporting News First-Team All-American. Leaf was also inducted into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2019. 

Following Leaf’s redshirt junior season, he declared for the NFL draft where he was the No. 2 pick in the 1998 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. The first pick in the draft was Manning who went to the Indianapolis Colts. Woodson was drafted fourth overall by the Raiders.

Leaf played for four years in the NFL until his career was ultimately cut short because of injuries. 

After the NFL, Leaf was arrested multiple times over a four-year period for burglary, substance possession and theft. 

While in prison, Leaf learned from his mistakes and learned to take accountability for his actions. He now serves as a program ambassador for Transcend Recovery Community, a sober living group. 

Leaf has done public speaking events since leaving prison and has been hard at work to make amends for his actions in the early 2000s.

“What an incredible honor. I’m so glad I can truly appreciate it now. The player may have deserved this some time ago, but the man didn’t. I’m very proud of the man I see in the mirror today and am [incredibly] grateful and blessed for this [recognition]! #GoCougs #soberlife,” Leaf wrote in a tweet.