On Friday, former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf was arrested on burglary and drug possession charges at the parole office in his hometown of Great Falls, Montana. Leaf was charged with burglary and criminal possession of dangerous drugs (both charges are felonies) and a misdemeanor count of theft. He was in town for a series of book signings, but instead, Leaf spent the time he was supposed to be at a Barnes & Noble in Billings posting a $76,000 bond at the Cascade County Detention Center.
According to the Great Falls Tribune, Leaf was arrested following a month-long investigation by the Central Montana Drug Task Force. Authorities were tipped off by the U.S. Postal Service, who told police that Leaf was "receiving suspicious cash-on-delivery packages from Florida valued between $500 and $700." Leaf was called to the Great Falls Probation and Parole Office, where his vehicle was searched.
The task force found 20 Oxycodone pills, a schedule II narcotic for which Leaf did not have a prescription, in a golf bag inside Leaf's truck, [Great Falls Police Sgt. Chris] Hickman said. The pills were inside a prescription bottle that was not labeled, but another prescription bottle inside the golf bag were prescribed to a man who turned out to be an associate's of Leaf, Hickman said.
When contacted by the task force, the man said Leaf had entered his house Wednesday when he thought nobody would be inside, but he instead encountered a housekeeper. The housekeeper did not see Leaf take the prescription pills, but he was in the area of the kitchen where the man kept his pain-medication prescription, Hickman said.
"I've made some mistakes, and have no excuses," Leaf said a statement released by his publicist. "I am using the tools I've learned to move forward rather than backwards, and will be open to talking about the details in the days to come. I am confident that there will be further understanding when the facts are revealed, and feel very blessed for all of the support, especially from my friends and family."
It's hard to remember or believe now, but just before the 1998 NFL draft, it really was a toss-up as to whether Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf would be the better professional quarterback. The Indianapolis Colts took Manning with the first overall pick and enjoyed more than a decade of great seasons on his back. The San Diego Chargers took Leaf with the second pick, and watched in horror as he became the worst draft bust in NFL history. Leaf's refusal to adapt to complex NFL defenses, accept coaching, and grow into anything remotely resembling a franchise player led to his early NFL demise. Leaf threw 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions in three NFL seasons, and was out of the league by 2001.
Leaf's post-NFL life has seen him no better.
While Manning just signed a five-year, $96 million contract with the Denver Broncos, Leaf was busy serving 10 years of probation related to a conviction for burglary and drug possession charges stemming from a 2008 arrest in Texas. The burglary charges were dropped, and Leaf pled guilty to seven counts of fraudulently obtaining drugs and delivery of a simulated controlled substance. He was given a suspended sentence and 10 years probation.
Leaf had taken a leave of absence from a coaching position at West Texas A&M after it was revealed that he had asked a player for painkillers -- allegedly to help him with the pain of a wrist injury he had suffered in his NFL days. The burglary charge stemmed from an incident in which Leaf allegedly broke into the apartment of an injured West Texas A&M football player, looking for prescribed Hydrocodone painkillers.
As Randall County District Attorney James Farren said at that time, nobody was surprised by Leaf's addiction, and the problems it has caused.
"Everyone knew if you got injured, you'd get a visit from Ryan Leaf," Farren told the Associated Press in 2008. "And when he left, he had half their pain medication."
Since his probation, Leaf has put forth the face of a man trying to turn his life around. He wrote an autobiography -- the first book in a three-book deal -- and revealed that he was suffering from a tumor in his brain stem. His book, "598 Switch," was hyped as a tell-all tale from the perspective of a man who had made many mistakes and now knew better.
Sadly, it seems that those books will have to be moved to the "Adult Fiction" section, wherever they still may be.
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- Ryan Leaf