Four Leaf mentors reflect on situation

FOUR WASHINGTON STATE alums who have served as mentors for Ryan Leaf in recent years were shocked and saddened with the news coming out of Montana today that Leaf had been arrested for allegedly succumbing to the prescription painkiller addiction that landed him in legal trouble -- and on probation -- in Texas three years ago.

"I don't know the details of the case and haven't spoken with Ryan, but I do know that he's worked hard in recent years to battle and contain his addiction to painkillers. If it's true he fell off his recovery plan, it's incredibly sad, and illustrates just how insidious this disease can be," said Glenn Osterhout, a long-time WSU booster and wealth management consultant in Bellevue.

"Whether the facts being portrayed are accurate or not, my heart is aching over this. I hope it's a big misunderstanding. If it's not, Ryan clearly needs to get more help to overcome his addiction," said Jack Thompson, the dean of WSU's quarterbacking legends. "I know the family of Cougar quarterbacks would be in his corner lending moral support. That's what being a Cougar is all about."

"Tragic is the one word that comes to mind if the charges are true," said Doug Thomas, a Bellingham business executive who serves on the WSU Board of Trustees. "We obviously need to let the legal process unfold before we can pass any kind of judgment, but I can tell you Ryan is a sharp young man with a lot going for him. I wish him nothing but health, happiness, and help if he needs it."

"The strides Ryan has made personally and professionally over the last few years have been immense, so this news today, if it's close to accurate, is horribly sad," said Seattle communications consultant Greg Witter, who co-authored with Leaf the recently released book 596 Switch. "I've been impressed with the way he's tackled his addiction, and how honestly he's gone about raising awareness of the dangers of painkillers. Seeing that commitment from him and then hearing about this situation in Montana really tells me that overcoming addiction is one of the most daunting challenges anyone can undertake. I hope this is somehow a case of mistaken identity and misinformation."

Osterhout, Thompson, Thomas and Witter have, collectively and individually, become mentors to Leaf since he left his coaching position at West Texas A&M. Their advice has ranged from personal to professional, with the most telling development being Leaf's public return to the Cougar Nation after a decade of self-imposed exile following his failed NFL career.

While the release of 596 Switch has been a high point of Leaf's return to public life, he was dealt a setback last spring when he was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that required surgery and, more recently, a nearly two-month protocol of daily radiation treatments.

Leaf released a statement Friday night through his publicist, Wendy Ogunsemore, of Seattle-based Ogunsemore & Staninger, that was carried in the Great Falls Tribune. Leaf said:

"I've made some mistakes, and have no excuses. I am using the tools I've learned to move forward rather than backwards, and will be open to talking about the details in the days to come. I am confident that there will be further understanding when the facts are revealed, and feel very blessed for all of the support, especially from my friends and family."

Editor's note: Greg Witter is also a co-founder of

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