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Ryan Leaf went from NFL QB bust to prison; Where is he now?
Credit: © RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Leaf went from NFL QB bust to prison; Where is he now?

LOS ANGELES (BVM) – Ryan Leaf is widely considered one of the biggest NFL quarterback draft busts of all time. 

Leaf was debated as a better prospect than Peyton Manning for the 1998 NFL Draft. Ultimately, Manning catapulted his Hall of Fame career as the Indianapolis Colts selected him as the No. 1 pick – while Leaf launched a failed career as he was taken No. 2 overall by the Chargers. 

Here’s what happened to Leaf and where the 47-year-old is now.    

Ryan Leaf’s NFL career

Leaf’s college career with the Washington State Cougars led scouts to believe that he would be the next great NFL QB. He led the Cougars to the 1998 Rose Bowl for the first time in 67 years as a redshirt junior before he was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and finished third in the Heisman Trophy race. He completed his three-year college career with Pac-10 Conference and WSU records for total offense (3,583 yards), passing yards (3,637 yards) and touchdown passes (33).

Leaf would go on to play a disappointing four years in the NFL due to bad behavior, ego, poor play and injuries. 

He went 3-6 as a starter during his 1998 rookie season with the Chargers – passing for 1,289 yards and just two touchdowns in 10 total games. 

The Chargers QB was out for the 1999 season due to injury and returned in 2000 – where he led the team 1-8 as a starter after completing just 50% of his passes for 1,883 yards, 11 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 11 games.  

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempted to help Leaf in a comeback, but he declined the offer because he refused to take a pay cut and become a backup. His second comeback attempt came during the 2001 season with the Dallas Cowboys, but he passed for only 494 yards and one touchdown in four games. 

Leaf retired from the league at 26 years old, just before the start of the Seahawks’ 2002 training camp. 

“You’ll grow tired of fans yelling at you,” Leaf later describes in a letter to himself for The Players’ Tribune. “Tired of being a punchline. Tired of being looked at as a failure. And just before Seahawks training camp starts, you’ll think, I don’t want to do this anymore. So you’ll quit.” 

Ryan Leaf’s bad behavior and time in prison 

Leaf was infamously known for his bad behavior while he was an NFL player. For example, he allegedly threw beer at students at an establishment and told numerous people he could “buy” them. He was also suspended after being caught in a shouting match with then-general manager Bobby Beathard and other San Diego Chargers personnel. Many can recall Leaf’s “don’t talk to me” incident, where he shouted at a reporter to “knock it off” during a locker-room interview. 

@pardonmytake

The famous Ryan Leaf clip of him screaming at a teamate in the locker room. Junior Seau had to throw him in the shower to cool him down #nfl #football #ryanleaf

♬ original sound – pardonmytake

His bad behavior didn’t stop after he left the NFL. Unfortunately, he was addicted to oxycodone and Vicodin (which were introduced to him through orthopedic surgeries during his playing days). He found multiple ways to get pills, which included taking them from the athletes he was coaching at West Texas A&M. 

Leaf would even go as far as burglarizing homes to steal prescription pain medication. So, a judge sent him to prison in 2012 and he was released 32 months later in 2014. 

Where is Ryan Leaf now?

Leaf is setting an example that it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf. 

He has stayed out of legal trouble in recent years. He was last arrested in 2020 for a misdemeanor domestic battery charge. He avoided jail time and was sentenced to three years of informal probation. 

“That will be your one big regret, Ryan,” Leaf wrote in a letter to himself for The Players’ Tribune. “It won’t be your failure to make it as an NFL quarterback. It won’t be your addiction to painkillers. It won’t even be your attempt to [take your own life]. When all’s said and done, your biggest regret will be that you didn’t treat people well.” 

Additionally, Leaf has been sober for over a decade and is a major advocate for those struggling with addiction thanks to his partnership with the Menninger Clinic and his separate appearances around the country as a motivational speaker

Ryan Leaf now
Former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf speaks during a Meridian Community Health speaker series event on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Lafayette. (Credit: © Nikos Frazier/Journal & Courier/USA TODAY NETWORK)

The former QB admitted that he ran out of money just a few years after leaving the NFL (even though he made over $12 million). He stays plenty busy these days working as a podcast host for “The Straight Line With Ryan Leaf” to discuss NFL and college football. He’s also an announcer for Westwood One Sports and he makes appearances for Good Morning Football.

In terms of family life, Leaf is married to Anna Kleinsorge, who is a former Georgetown Hoyas volleyball player. The couple have a son and welcomed a daughter in November.  

Overall, Leaf said on The Pivot Podcast in 2022 that he spends his days praying, meditating, seeking therapy and focusing on his family. He frequently posts about his life on his Twitter and Instagram.