Ryan Leaf signs trifecta of a book deal

ERIK JOHNSON, the CEO of Crimson Oak Publishing, thought there might be an opportunity to do something memorable when he read Ryan Leaf's column on Cougfan.com earlier this football season about the tragedy and triumph of former Washington State offensive lineman Jason McEndoo.

The column, which ran in September before the WSU-Montana State game, was illuminating, heartbreaking and compelling, thought Johnson. Those three adjectives also struck him as fairly describing the guy who wrote the piece.

So he picked up the phone and gave Leaf a call.

It was purely exploratory. Johnson's in the publishing business and Leaf, with an aptitude for writing plus a pretty unique personal story, could be a budding author.

The two started talking, and over the course of the fall those conversations evolved from Leaf expressing skepticism to the notion of him writing a book to the possibility of him writing multiple books.

Today, those conversations were culminated with Leaf and Johnson announcing a deal under which the former All-American quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist will pen three books.

One will focus on Leaf's battle with and victory over prescription painkillers and the demons of self-doubt that haunted him since his once-promising pro career came undone at age 26. Another will be a broader biography on the triumphs, trials and tribulations of a life lived much in the public eye.

The first book in the series, though, figures to be a must-read for WSU sports fans.

"It will cover four years, from the moment I decided to attend Washington State up through our Rose Bowl appearance in 1998," Leaf says. "For Cougar fans, it will be an entertaining, behind-the-scenes journey through a fascinating time in the school's football history. For sports fans generally, it will offer an unvarnished look at the world of college athletics, good and bad. The aim is not to glorify the sport or our very special 1997 WSU team, but to put a light on the powerful stories, colorful characters and some of the shenanigans behind one of our country's most beloved weekend pastimes."

That book is targeted for an October 2011 release.

Leaf said timeframe of the book will span from the moment on New Year's Day 1994 when he walked into his mom and dad's bedroom and announced that he was going to play his college ball at WSU to the morning after the 1998 Rose Bowl when he went on national television to announce he was going to pass up his fifth-year of eligibility to go to the NFL.

Leaf is no stranger to the written word. In September, he started writing a regular column for CF.C and for the last several years he's kept a journal. Leaf says the journal will serve as an underpinning for his books.

"The fact Ryan is going to put his story in print is no small development," says Johnson. "When his promising NFL career came to a disappointing end after just four seasons, Ryan kept a low profile. In many ways, he put a shell around himself."

And then his addiction to prescription painkillers, stemming from a wrist injury, thrust him back into the public eye.

"After completing treatment for the addiction, Ryan began talking very openly about how critical it is for people in the midst of that battle to ask for help," Johnson said. "He has now been clean for two years, and has re-emerged from his self-imposed exile with a powerful story to share."

Johnson himself is a lifelong Cougar fan and his company, Crimson Oak, is based in Pullman. The firm specializes in books with powerful messages of hope, possibility and determination. They can be found at crimsonoakpublishing.com.

"I'm very excited about this opportunity," Leaf said. "I plan to finish the first book – the Cougar book – sometime this spring so it will be ready to come off the presses in October."

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