In 2014, former WSU Cougars quarterback Ryan Leaf was in a Montana prison serving time for burglary and drug charges.
In 2019, he’ll be in an ESPN announce booth, calling games throughout the college football season.
“If you would have told me five years ago sitting in that prison cell that I would be calling games for ESPN and working for the Disney company, I would have told you you were nuts,” Leaf told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock and Salk on Monday, “and no one would have faulted me for that.”
It’s been quite the redemption story for Leaf, who led the Cougs to the 1997 Rose Bowl and was the No. 2 overall draft pick behind Peyton Manning in the 1998 NFL Draft but had an infamously disastrous NFL career that was followed by legal troubles.
Leaf opened up to his former college rival Brock Huard and co-host Mike Salk while discussing his new job and sharing some thoughts on the upcoming college football campaign.
“Any time people showed the mirror to me or held me accountable for my actions, I would become defensive and I’d want to push away, and that simply can’t be the case when you’re trying to live a transparent, vulnerable life so that had to change,” Leaf said. “It had to be a 180-degree lifestyle change when it came to that, and it’s been good.
“… I struggled with anybody. Anybody who was critical of me in any way, so that could be teammates, but the way it got most publicized was through the press because it was a constant battle day in, day out where I simply thought I was better and they were just peons. Rather what they were doing is their job.”
The irony that Leaf is now a member of the press, a group that he clashed with in some pretty notable ways as a player, is not lost on him.
“When I was done with my professional playing career I wanted no part of a newsroom, and for how I treated the press they probably wanted no part of me either,” he said. “It probably would have been the best thing, that when I went back to finish my degree that I would have went and done the internship and started out that way and started making amends, but I had to take the path I had to take, I guess.”