Leaf shares story with WSU athletes

Former WSU quarterback advises current students to stay away from trouble



While telling the story of his life, Ryan Leaf, former WSU quarterback, describes the importance of being a better human than a football player Thursday evening in the Cougar Football Complex.

JACKSON GARDNER, Evergreen reporter

It took a certain amount of courage for Ryan Leaf to return to his alma mater and speak to its student-athletes like he did Thursday night.

Even though Leaf now speaks to student-athletes for a living, along with his commentary work for Pac-12 Networks, trips to Pullman are a little different.

In fact, Leaf had intended to come to Pullman to speak to WSU’s student-athletes back in August. But he canceled.

“I was supposed to come talk to you guys on August 21,” Leaf said. “But I got pissed off because they had a fundraiser where they brought Cougars back, they brought legends back to talk about the rose bowl and stuff and a friend of mine texted me saying ‘dude I wish you were here’ and I wrote back ‘I wasn’t fucking invited’ and I canceled.”

The text message is a testament that Leaf to this day isn’t a perfect person, but now he will be the first to remind you that we all aren’t. He too still has demons that require conquering on a daily basis.

He was the quarterback who thought he had it all: money, power and prestige. And after being the second-overall draft pick in the 1998 NFL Draft and inking a $31 million contract with the San Diego Chargers, Leaf had a whole lot of good fortune ahead.

However these days, Leaf has stripped away the money, power and prestige he once put on a pedestal and traded it for accountability, spirituality and community.

 From high school until the end of his NFL career, football bailed Leaf out of everything he said. No matter how bad his behavior was, Leaf would be okay as long as he put the ball in the end zone. He said he now realizes that was one of the major downfalls in his career.

“I wish [Mike] Price would have kicked me out of school,” Leaf said.

Of all of Leaf’s accomplishments on and off the field, none compare to getting sober, something he believes to make him more accountable today.

Leaf promised WSU student-athletes in attendance his personal number to anyone who wanted it. He said would be a resource to everyone, a luxury he didn’t nor wouldn’t have took when he was here.

The former first round draft pick – and only first-rounder to come from the state of Montana – no longer feels ashamed of his name, he said. He uses his newly-found courage in being vulnerable with the hope that he can be a positive force in ending the stigma toward mental health.