Thursday, June 11, 2009

Turning an old Leaf

I have been yelled at by Will Clark, Barry Bonds and -- famously, thanks to NFL Films -- Jerry Rice, though he was not responding angrily or accurately to the question I actually asked. But I never was screamed at like Ryan Leaf lit into another sportswriter one time in San Diego.

That is a sportswriter’s nightmare – other than getting the final score incorrect in the paper. No one likes to be yelled at in front of others but it happens because athletes’ can sometimes be sensitive and reporters can sometimes be insensitive.

Unfortunately, for Leaf, that is his legacy. His locker room meltdown as quarterback for the San Diego Chargers was the beginning of the end of his career. People might remember that he was neck-and-neck with Peyton Manning to be the first player selected in the 1998 NFL draft. The Indianapolis Colts finally decided to take Manning and he became an MVP who led them to the Super Bowl. Leaf was taken second by the Chargers and he became perhaps the biggest bust in NFL draft history. And the biggest pain in the butt. People, especially children of the YouTube generation, will remember Leaf screaming at the top of his lungs at some poor, unfortunate soul.

In four NFL seasons with the Chargers, Bucs and Dallas Cowboys, Leaf threw only 14 TD passes and 36 interceptions. His quarterback rating was 50.0. Leaf wound up coaching at West Texas A&M. He was the QB coach and the school’s golf coach. But, last November, he resigned a day after he was accused of asking a player for a pain pill.

Leaf, who one day was good enough to play for the Rams, is now believed to be on the lam, though his attorney has said he is not. On May 21, Leaf was indicted in Texas on drug and burglary charges. Today, he is a wanted man for failing to turn himself in. He already may have fled to Canada because that’s where he was last seen – at drug rehab center in British Columbia.

You hate to see someone struggle with their personal demons and wish them the best in recovery. But -- and I think I speak for most if not all sportswriters -- it appears he got what he deserved. That is if ever shows up again.


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