Former WSU and NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf hoping his missteps can help others; has reached out to Johnny Manziel's agent

RYAN LEAF is upbeat, physically fit and making the rounds this week on radio row at the Super Bowl, spreading the message that people battling addiction need to ask for help because they can’t do it alone. 

Out of prison for more than a year for charges related to his addiction to Vicodin, Leaf on Thursday told KESN Radio in Dallas that watching the Johnny Manziel situation play out is like "looking in a mirror" and that he recently reached out to Manziel’s agent to see if he can help the young quarterback "learn from my story."

“There is a solution,” Leaf said, but it’s “so hard to see” when you’ve reached the depths.

Rock bottom for him came on April 1, 2012 on the jailhouse floor in his home state of Montana, he said.

Leaf, a one-time Cougfan.com columnist, is now a guidance counselor, working primarily with teens in California and former NFL players who are battling addiction. 

Leaf told KESN how he first became addicted to painkillers when he re-injured his wrist while working as the quarterbacks coach at West Texas A&M. Following treatment, he was clean and sober for three years until surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. On December 1, 2011, he said, he took his first painkiller in three years and within four months he had been arrested twice and was “searching for a garage” to park his car and let the exhaust fumes end his life.

He didn’t ask for help, he said. Asking for help doesn’t signify weakness, Leaf implored. It’s the first step to gaining control.

Vicodin, he said, is the only drug he’s ever taken, “but it was enough to put me on the jailhouse floor.”

He joked that he didn’t know a single drug dealer when he was stealing painkillers, but now that he’s spent time in prison he now knows 100 dealers.

LEAF OFFERED MORE PERSPECTIVE IN THE INTERVIEW, WHICH RUNS A LITTLE MORE THAN 12 MINUTES AND CAN BE FOUND ONLINE HERE.

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • Leaf, who last played for the Dallas Cowboys, had never met Roger Staubach until this week. Same for Joe Namath. He was clearly honored by the opportunities to talk with the two Hall of Famers.
  • Of his failed NFL career, he said his last shot — with the Seahawks in 2002 — was a microcosm of his broader career. “I just quit,” he said of his decision not to show up at training camp in July after being signed in May. He didn’t want to work hard, didn’t want to deal with the media and had the wrist injury so he walked away. He said he recently ran into then-Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, who was very gracious and told Leaf he and his family had been praying for him.
  • Leaf said he thrived at Washington State — taking the Cougars to their first Rose Bowl in 67 years — because he was in the same system for four years. The NFL, where it’s the best of the best, requires uncommon work ethic, which he did not have, and then when things started going badly he was not emotionally mature enough to deal with it and instead lashed out at media and teammates.
  • Of his then-feud with T.J. Simers, Leaf said the venerable columnist simply informed the world earlier than they otherwise would have known what a jerk he (Leaf) was at the time. Simers and Leaf have long since passed the olive branch.
  • Leaf and Peyton Manning have kept in touch over the years and he said Manning’s parents reached out to Leaf’s mom and dad when he went to prison. “He’s the one guy I should probably resent … but I’m just happy for him.”
  • IF YOU WOULD LIKE A COPY OF LEAF’S BOOK ABOUT HIS FOUR YEARS AT WASHINGTON STATE -- 596 SWITCH -- CF.C WILL SHIP YOU ONE SIMPLY FOR THE COST OF POSTAGE AND HANDLING. LEAF CO-WROTE THE BOOK WITH CF.C CO-FOUNDER GREG WITTER. SEND $5 AND MAILING INFORMATION TO COUGFAN.COM, 1463 E. REPUBLICAN #1A, SEATTLE WA 98112. OFFER ENDS FEB. 20; ONE COPY PER HOUSEHOLD.

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