Former Coug Ryan Leaf came back into the public fray Thursday by doing a pair of interviews at Radio Row. The rejuvenated sounding Leaf spoke on a variety of issues and was not hesitant to share details from his complicated past.
Leaf joined ESPN Dallas' 103.3 Cowlishaw and Mosely Show and The Drive with Jody, MJ, and Bauer on Fox Sports Phoenix 910 for a pair of highly interesting, 12 minutes interviews. He went significantly more in depth about drug addiction and his spiral with the Dallas show, and hit on both Peyton Manning and Johnny Manziel with both.
Leaf broke the ice early with Cowlishaw making a joke about how in prison he made a habit of watching Around the Horn. They then talked about Leaf's disappointing NFL career after he was drafted with no. 2 overall pick.
"I got to the NFL and I got thrust right into it and then when things went poorly I wasn't emotionally prepared or behaviorally prepared to deal with the scrutiny of the media," Leaf said.
Much has been made of Leaf being a bust in the league, and that's intensified when you look at the player drafted one spot ahead of him: Peyton Manning. Leaf blamed his mentality and work ethic on why he failed to succeed at the highest level
"It was just an imploding chaotic version of what you don't want to happen," Leaf said on ESPN Dallas 103.3. "I look back on it and it's just like 'oh my god,' If I had a spiritual mindset like I do now things are different, but that's just the way life goes, and I sat in that for so long."
Discussion then moved to a more revealing topic, that I can't imagine was easy to talk about, Leaf's life after his football career.
Leaf went into coaching in 2006 at West Texas A&M, but he would soon start to spiral. He was prescribed Vicodin, a painkiller, to help with a wrist injury that had hampered his professional career. He got addicted but was able to become clean by 2008 before a pair of relapses.
In 2011, after being clean for 18 months, Leaf was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and in order to help with the pain from radiation was again prescribed Vicodin. Dec. 1, 2011 Leaf was back on the only drug he's ever done. It would take him four months to hit the bottom, and to find what he needed.
"I found the spirituality when I woke up on the jailhouse floor on April 1, 2012 because I simply had to get to that point," Leaf said. "I had to be humbled to that point of being on a jailhouse floor in a suicide scrub outfit."
June 19, 2012 Leaf was sentenced to seven years in custody of the Montana Department of Corrections. He was released from prison December 3, 2014.
Now, Leaf is working to improve the lives of others that have had struggles like him. He's living in Los Angeles and is a part of Transcend Recovery Community, helping those with substance abuse issues.
He has even reached out to the agent of Johnny Manziel, who Leaf said "is like looking in the mirror." Really, Leaf just urged Manziel to ask for help, because that is the most important step towards a solution. Leaf's appearance did happen to coincide with new reports of the unraveling life of the Heisman winning quarterback.
Leaf himself sounded and looked quite well. He seemed genuinely happy to be at radio row and seeing some of his old friends. He didn't hesitate to talk about himself and had a positive outlook on his own life. I wish nothing but good luck to him in staying healthy and happy.
"I have 40 years, I'm halfway through my life and I'm a flawed human being, period, just like everybody else," Leaf said on Fox Sports Phoenix 910. "I'm just happy to be able to play football pretty well for awhile, and I'm proud of those days but it's not gonna be something that is the standard for what my life will bring the rest of the way. I'm a happy person without it."
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