Ryan Leaf Gives First Interview in Four Years

Ryan Leaf is always going to be a name mentioned during the NFL draft when talking about one of the biggest bust in draft history. It's etched in stone and sealed airtight.

That is the story of Ryan Leaf's legacy. Heralded coming out of Washington State he was drafted second to some guy name Manning in the 1998 draft. San Diego felt they found their man to lead the team and city to a Super Bowl. After a few disappointing and stressful years in San Diego he was released. After unsuccessful stints in Tampa Bay, Dallas and Seattle he retired after five years in the NFL.

Last night Ryan gave his first national interview last night on HBO's Real Sports. For those who missed it, I'll sum it up as best I can.

He says he doesn't look forward to the draft every year because he knows his name always comes up when talking about a potential draft pick bust. It's hard to really think of Leaf as a normal person. You hear the name and you automatically think bust. He hates that.

We all forget that Leaf started the first game his rookie season and won his first two starts. Everything looked rosy. Then the next game against Kansas City he threw fifteen passes and completed one. He threw two interceptions and fumbled three times. The following day he went off on a reporter, which everyone will remember more for than any play on the field. That's the video where he stands over the reporter and screams bad bad words to him. What we learn now is that was the beginning of the end of Ryan Leaf. Leaf called it "The downfall of his career." Strange to think that moment led to his demise. Three games into his career. Former GM Bobby Bethard believes that as well because from that point on it was hard to communicate with him.

Now Ryan faced a new level of scrutiny he had never seen before. Things got worse on and off the field. He became a real jerk to local reporters. He let fans get to his head. He seemed to not work hard anymore. He had no respect for anybody.

Of course Ryan disagreed that he didn't work hard. He said he took pride in it. A local reporter told a story of Leaf not practicing one day because his hand hurt. Later that day he was spotted playing golf. Working hard to not work hard.

He retired at 26 and felt relieved. He called his time in the NFL the worst five years of his life. Though he still lives comfortably from his millions, I would guess he'd trade those millions to erase those past five years. Ryan was destined to bust from the beginning in the NFL. He even said he never believed he was a very good quarterback. That's a hell of a mental state to be in game one. He may have had the physical tools but mentally he was as fragile as fine china. He was a winner in high school and in college. There he could do nothing wrong. Then a team gives you millions and expects you to walk on water. He wasn't prepared to handle it. He wasn't use to failure. When he did he became what we remember of him.

But the story has a good ending. We should allow Leaf to have one. He's a quarterback coach at West Texas A&M. It's a Div II school and it's as far away as you can get from the NFL but Leaf would have it no other way. He seems genuinely happy with what he's doing now. He doesn't want fame. He doesn't want to be recognized. He just wants to coach football these days. San Diego just wonders where all this was when they drafted him.

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