|(Ryan Leaf 1998 Upper Deck Game Jersey RC)|
Leaf is arguably the biggest draft bust in sports history. Sure, the numbers are bad (Leaf appeared in 25 games, started 21, had a 48.4 completion percentage, throw 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions), but the success of the player drafted one spot ahead of Leaf in the '98 NFL Draft might exacerbate his bust status. In the weeks leading up to the '98 Draft, Leaf and Payton Manning were considered by many scouts to be neck and neck as far as talent and potential. Fortunately for Indianapolis Colts GM Bill Polian and fans, Manning was the right prospect.
Leaf struggled with a number of setbacks including injuries, immaturity and stress management issues. There was no questioning his arm strength and collegiate career at Washington State, but the NFL can exert an entire different level of demands on a player. Unfortunately for Leaf, he was not able to handle those demands.
After Leaf's retirement from the NFL just prior to the start of the 2002 season, it seemed that he was taking the necessary steps to get his life on track. He graduated with a degree in arts and humanities from Washington State in 2005. In 2006, he joined the West Texas A&M coaching staff. Unfortunately, Leaf was put on an indefinite leave of absence in 2008 after asking an A&M student-athlete for a pill to help with chronic wrist pain. In 2009, he was indicted on burglary and controlled substance charges. Leaf plead guilty on seven counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and one count of delivery of a simulated controlled substance this past April. He was sentenced to ten years of probation and had to pay $20,000.
Leaf is still a young guy at 34 years of age. He has a lot of life ahead of him. Sports bust or not, he still has time to live a positive and productive life. I'm rooting for him.