Live chat with former WSU quarterback Ryan Leaf
Highlights of a live chat with Ryan Leaf
Ryan Leaf, the former Washington State quarterback, talked about going through drug rehab, having brain surgery and his new book in an exclusive live chat with readers Wednesday.
Q: What qualifies you as a motivational speaker? Choking in the Rose Bowl? Biggest NFL draft bust of all time? Drug addiction? I'd think that you'd be more like Exhibit A on what not to do.
Leaf: All of those. I have failed so many more times than I will succeed, but I've done it at the highest possible level. And at this time and age, people are more apt to listen to somebody who has more celebrity and notoriety. That's a shame, but it's a reality. and I'm more than happy to carry that torch.
Q: What helps you get through the refs taking the last two seconds off the clock at the Rose Bowl?
Leaf: Well, I love the fact that it's a controversial ending, because all the great Cougar fans everywhere still believe that we didn't necessarily lose the game, just ran out of time. I think that makes the game even more memorable and keeps us in the moment and talking about it.
It's why I wrote the book and named the book, "596 Switch," which would have been the last play we would have ran if we had gotten those last two seconds in the Rose Bowl.
We had a play ready. It was a five-receiver route with the Fab Five, probably would have gone to Kevin McKenzie. We were 8 for 10 during the season with six touchdowns on that play, so it would have given us an opportunity.
Q: If you could do one thing over, what would it be?
Leaf: I would have stayed in school for my final year.
Q: Are you still addicted to pain killers?
Leaf: You're always addicted to pain killers when you're an addict. But I'm lucky enough to be sober since Nov. 1, 2008. But it's like brushing your teeth. You've got to do something every day.
Q: Do you keep in contact with other WSU QB greats, like Jack Thompson, Mark Rypien, Drew Bledsoe, Jason Gesser and Alex Brink?
Leaf: All of them. We are a quarterback fraternity, and Jack Thompson is our godfather.
Q: I'm a recovering alcoholic. What's your new vice?
Leaf: Writing became an outlet for me, as well as working out.
Q: Considering how hard you failed, how do you expect to be respected by the WSU players and coaches?
Leaf: That was hard for me, because for the longest time I felt like such an embarrassment and such a failure. But the Washington State family truly embraced me, and I'm so thankful to them for that. What I did in the NFL may define me to you, but it will not define me to everyone else. The average length of an NFL career is 2.8 years, and I plan on living for a long time.
Q: What helped you getting yourself back on track the most?
Leaf: I believe going to a rehab facility is probably the best decision I ever made. To actually spend 42 days on yourself, trying to become a better person, is something I wish everybody could go through.
Q: How did you get hooked on pain killers?
Leaf: I had eight surgeries in 15 years and took them for physical pain. Before you know it, your body becomes addicted to it.
Q: Where do you live now? What do you do with your time?
Leaf: I live in Montana, I spend time traveling and speaking, I spend time writing. This is the first of three books I'm writing. And I'm trying to just give back any way I can. I'm not trying to change anybody's opinion of me, I'm just trying to be a better person. And in doing so, you usually develop good relationships with good people.
Q: What was your record against my Huskies in the Apple Cup?
Leaf: 1-2. But we won the one we needed to.
Q: My daughter is a heroin addict. Is it up to me to help or is it to her to help herself. She is 21 and already had several life-and-death situations.
Leaf: This is why I love the fact that I got caught and have this story, to give back. You can't be codependent. It will kill you. She has to want help. You unconditionally love her, so that's what makes it so hard. But all you can do is be there when she needs you and hope that she finds what she truly needs.
I'm so sorry to hear that. If you ever need any help with anything, I'm @ryandleaf on Twitter, which has been a huge outlet for people who have the same illness as I do.
Q: Who would play Ryan Leaf in the movie?
Leaf: Will Ferrell.
Q: Who's your favorite quarterback to watch in the Pac-12 right now?
Leaf: Andrew Luck. Funny story, I talked to him after the game Saturday night, and he called me Mr. Leaf. I feel so old, but what a great young man.
Q: Ryan, what was your best moment of your Rose Bowl game?
Leaf: Seeing Washington State painted in the end zone. It was real. It was really happening. Not just for me, but for every Cougar who had suffered since 1931.
Q: Any update on the brain surgery from earlier this year?
Leaf: Yes, I had most of the tumor removed back in May. I'm very grateful and blessed that it was benign. I do have to go to Southern California and go through six weeks of radiation starting in the middle of November, but it's just another bridge I need to cross.
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