Ryan Leaf is finally at peace with himself.
That means he's OK if you label him a NFL bust, OK if you think he threw away a potentially good career and OK with how you view his work ethic.
"I've spent so many years being phony for so long," said Leaf, who stopped by ESPN's offices Thursday to promote his book "596 Switch," which is about his rise and fall in sports. "What you see is what you get here today. I'm a big-toothed, goofy dude, and I'm OK with that."
Leaf, now 35, had a successful college career at Washington State and was selected as the second overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft. Despite his 6-foot-5 size and arm strength, he played only three seasons in the NFL -- mostly with the San Diego Chargers -- and had 14 touchdown passes and 36 interceptions.
As nagging wrist injuries started to mount, Leaf retired in 2002. Because football was all he had, Leaf then tried to become a coach.
"I thought I didn't know how to do anything else," Leaf said. He tried coaching in Texas, but that wasn't successful, so he said he turned to drugs to numb the pain. He eventually was caught and pled guilty to seven counts of obtaining a controlled substance and was sentenced to probation. He was forced to head into rehab in 2008, and he said that's what changed his life.
"I realized there that I could do something besides playing football. It was like an awakening," Leaf said. "I've gone out of my way now to try to make amends to people and places I might have wronged over the years."
And this past June, Leaf had a life-altering scare when he had a benign tumor removed from his brain stem.
So all of this went into the book, and Leaf wants people to understand that he doesn't want people to feel sorry for him.
"I did what I did at that time and I can't go back and change it," Leaf said. "I just want to show people that I'm human, and maybe my story can help others."
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