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Ryan Leaf opens up on NFL failure, personal struggles

4/15/2010

Ryan Leaf, the former Washington State great and NFL bust, has been through a lot since he led the Cougars to the Rose Bowl following the 1997 season.

Last year, you might recall, he was arrested for trying to bring prescription painkillers into the U.S.

On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to seven counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and one count of delivery of a simulated controlled substance, but avoided jail time in a plea deal that fined him $20,000 and put him on probation for 10 years.

At the time, he released a lengthy statement that operated as a public apology. It was probably the most mature act the 33-year-old has made.

He later sounded even more honest and grounded in an interview with Ian Furness of KJR in Seattle.

This is what he said about the end of his NFL career:

Well I stayed quiet for so long. I just thought if I stayed quiet it would just go away. And contrary to what people believe, I loved this game since I was 4 years old and for me to walk away from it at 26 years old was probably the hardest thing I had to do in my life. People don’t understand that. They think it was just easy or something. I had never failed at football and that was going to be the problem in the pros. The Chargers were told, and I was tested, and they said mentally he’s just not ready yet to fail. We had a great game plan going in to be successful and win, but when we lost, I had never lost and I didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t handle it well. I had never lost at anything and when we started to fail, I proceeded to act like I always had and that was to be defensive and protect myself the only way I knew how. And that was to be as defensive and as strong as possible and do everything myself. And that just doesn’t work at that level. You just can’t. You need help, you need people around you, and I totally failed at that part. I just wasn’t ready to fail and I didn’t know how to do it. It makes you grow up in a hurry. My wrist was done in four years and I couldn’t compete at the level that I could anymore. But I was just so beat up. I was tired of being beat up by everybody that I just wanted to run and hide from it, because I wasn’t going to be able to compete at the level I needed to compete at, and I was just tired of being beat up. I hope people understand that it was very, very hard for me to walk away...

Leaf touches a lot of bases in the interview. The link includes text and audio. Worth a look (or listen).