The phrases “Ryan Leaf” and “good news” are seldom seen together, but the former San Diego Chargers (briefly) and Dallas Cowboys (even more briefly) quarterback just shared an encouraging development in his life.
It’s no match for the sum of his professional failures and personal setbacks, but it might just be a start in the right direction for the man who has come to be inextricably linked with Peyton Manning.
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The San Diego Chargers made Ryan Leaf the No. 2 overall pick of the 1998 NFL draft after he led Washington State to its first Rose Bowl in six decades. The Indianapolis Colts selected first and went with Peyton Manning, who would go on to throw 539 regular-season touchdown passes and win a pair of Super Bowls.
Being drafted turned out to be the highlight of Leaf’s NFL career. Accuracy and decision-making were problems as a rookie. While Manning threw a league-high 28 interceptions, he also completed 56.7% of his passes and rang up 26 touchdowns. Leaf completed only 45.3% of his throws and finished with 15 interceptions and just two TDs.
After missing the 1999 season following a shoulder injury, Leaf’s second go-round was only marginally better than his rookie campaign: 50.0% completion rate, 11 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. After being released by the Chargers in the offseason, Leaf caught on with the Dallas Cowboys in 2001 but made three ineffective starts, ending his playing days.
It wouldn’t be long before his personal life also went into a downward spiral.
Ryan Leaf is back to how we remember him: 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds
Ryan Leaf shared positive news on social media on Nov. 3, 2020. The former San Diego Chargers quarterback posted a photo on Twitter showing him on the golf course and looking close to his playing weight.
“Just an update after another 2 months of this year of mental wellness & health,” he wrote. “I started this on 7/3 after going thru a few months into this pandemic and felt there needed to be a shift in perspective.”
Leaf went on to say he’s dropped 70 pounds.
“All due to a nutritional change and daily golf excursions have contributed but the larger change has been mental and the focus of choice around doing the next right thing,” he wrote. “With the state of the world we will always have a choice to make the positive and healthy choice. It’s the foundation of my recovery and it was an opportunity to reinvest in what is most important.”
It’s a sign that he might be turning his life around
Once his football career went sideways and finally bottomed out, Ryan Leaf returned to Washington State to finish his degree. He landed at West Texas A&M in 2006 as a volunteer assistant coach but resigned in 2008 after allegedly asking a player for a pain pill.
The following year, he would be indicted on burglary and drug charges in Texas, resulting in 10 years of probation and a $20,000 fine. In 2012, he was arrested in Montana twice in four days on multiple charges including burglary. He ended up serving 30 months in prison.
Leaf, 44, stayed out of the news until a May 2020 arrest on a charge of misdemeanor domestic battery in Palm Desert, California. He entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge and was sentenced in October to three years of probation.
The focus on his health and fitness appears to have started shortly after the arrest.