Leaf's book worth wait; hits streets Oct. 13

RYAN LEAF'S book about his four years at Washington State hits the streets starting Oct. 13,, and the old quarterback believes that the tale is one that will entertain, inform and inspire. "This is more than a sports book," he says. "It's a story about unique and colorful characters who came together to do something no one else thought possible.

"In the process, we united a community and region in a very special way."

It's also a book about the pressures, distractions and responsibilities of the modern-day college athlete, he says. Among the topics he delves into are recruiting, race relations, dealing with the media, and whether to pay players. Leaf talks about his public bravado hiding deep insecurities and what he terms "social awkwardness."

Side trips, like a wild recruiting visit to Miami and an out-of-body experience at the Heisman Trophy presentation with Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson and Randy Moss, add lively color.

The timeframe Leaf covers spans four years, running from the recruiting process the summer before his senior year of high school and ending the day after the 1998 Rose Bowl, when he announced plans to leave early for the NFL.

"The book really maps out a long journey that culminated in one memorable season, but the stories and insights and observations go well beyond that one season," Leaf says.

The name of the book is 596 Switch -- a unique title with special meaning.

"The literal explanation is that 596 switch was the name of the play we were going to run if the last two seconds hadn't vanished from the Rose Bowl clock. Those two seconds came to be two of the most controversial in bowl-game history, so it seemed fitting to tie the name of the book into something so memorable," Leaf says. "The figurative explanation is that the name works as a metaphor in a couple of ways, chief of which is that we as a team and community of fans accomplished something that no one in the world expected -- we effectively reversed field, or switched up, on outdated opinions and negative thinking."

COUGFAN.COM WAS ABLE TO secure a sneak peek of portions of the book by virtue of the fact Leaf is a periodic columnist for CF.C and his writing partner on 596 Switch was CF.C co-founder Greg Witter. The sections of the book I read were positively page turning -- and that's speaking as a football fan and WSU graduate, not as someone who knows Ryan and Greg. The insights and honesty are powerful, and the personal stories behind coaches and teammates are fascinating.

The portions I read also were full of little nuggets of history and humor. One that blew me away was the fact Ryan, as part of his research for the book, telephoned the Rose Bowl referee who let the two seconds run off the clock. I won't spill the beans on whether the gentleman had second thoughts about the call or not. Another that still has me smiling is Ryan's run-in with some foul-mouthed Oregon fans. I won't spoil that either by disclosing the details but I will say it has to rank among the all-time classic sports stories ever told.

Leaf's publisher, Crimson Oak Publishing, will launch sales of the book the Thursday prior to the Oct. 15 WSU-Stanford game. Leaf will be at the CUB at 7 p.m. that Thursday, then at The Bookie from 2 to 5 pm on Friday. On game day he will be in the Field House before kickoff signing copies for those who buy the book there.

In addition to standard outlets, such as book stores and Amazon.com, 596 Switch will be sold through crimsonoakpublishing.com, with every sale there resulting in a portion of the proceeds being donated to WSU Athletics. Crimson Oak is taking pre-orders now.

After the Stanford game, Leaf will depart Pullman for a bus tour and series of book-signing events throughout the state. The tour will culminate with the WSU-Oregon State game in Seattle at Century Link Field on Oct. 22. Dates, times and locations of the rest of the bus tour are forthcoming.

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