NFL Draft’s Biggest Bust Makes Miraculous Comeback
In life’s equivalent of a third and long facing a strong blitz, Ryan Leaf stood cool in the pocket and delivered a strike.
The former “biggest bust in NFL draft history,” drug addict and prison inmate has staged a comeback almost as miraculous as the Immaculate Reception or Bills vs. Oilers. He has recovered his life and will be serving as an analyst on ESPN’s college football games this fall.
Leaf will join play-by-play announcer Clay Matvick in the booth and will be assigned to games primarily on ESPN2 and ESPNU.
There is a “ton of gratitude in the Leaf household” Leaf posted on Twitter after the announcement.
“Ryan has experienced the highs and lows in the game of football, putting him in a position to relate to a wide range of situations players can find themselves in,” said Lee Fitting, ESPN’s senior vice president of production. “He will be able to rely on those experiences — including an unbelievable college career where he was an All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist — in his analysis, making him a tremendous asset for our team.”
Leaf, the No. 2 overall NFL draft pick of the San Diego Chargers in 1998 behind Peyton Manning, was known more for his prickly attitude toward teammates and reporters than he was for tossing touchdown passes. He didn’t last long in the NFL and eventually spent two years in prison after being arrested in 2012 for breaking into a home in Montana to steal prescription drugs and for violating his Texas probation.
He worked for the Pac-12 Network last season and has been co-hosting a show on SiriusXM’s Pac-12 channel. He has a broadcast journalism degree from the Murrow School at Washington State.
“Five years ago, sitting in a prison cell, I would have never imagined that I was going to be part of ESPN and the Disney Corporation,” Leaf told the Associated Press. “If you would have told me that, I would have said you are absolutely crazy. And I can’t believe it. I lay my head down every night with a ton of gratitude.”