Why I’d choose Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning any day of the week…
…even if Peyton is funnier
In 1998, the first pick of the NFL Draft came down to two prospects. The first was a man named Peyton Manning. You probably see him on television every day whether he’s talking about Nationwide or any of the other hundreds of commercials it seems he’s in. Manning, originally from New Orleans, is part of football royalty. His dad played at Ole Miss and in the NFL as did his youngest brother. I love Peyton. He's one of the best to ever do it, but in this newsletter, I want to talk about the other prospect from that draft and why I like him more than Peyton.
Ryan Leaf was the polar opposite to Peyton Manning. Leaf who was born and raised in Montana went on to play for the Washington State Cougars. While Manning was cerebral, Leaf was seen as a physical specimen at 6’5 and 230 pounds. In the end, Manning was the first pick with Leaf following him as the second pick. We can stop talking about football now as Peyton became a Hall of Fame quarterback and Leaf, well, he became the biggest draft bust in recent NFL history. Manning retired in 2016 while Leaf only played four seasons.
In telling his story, Leaf describe himself at that time as immature, narcissistic, arrogant, and someone with low self-esteem. He would blow up at reporters and instead of taking responsibility for his actions, blame everyone else instead of himself.
Leaf also was hurt a lot and had to undergo orthopedic surgeries. After one of them, a doctor prescribed him Vicodin. That one drug ended up being Leaf’s downfall in life. He quickly became addicted to it and in his own words, he would be able to use it to numb pain. What started to numb his pain quickly became something that he needed daily.
That need ended with Leaf breaking into homes in Amarillo while he was a coach at West Texas A&M to find prescription pills. Leaf was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison.
Thankfully, Leaf’s story didn't end there. Through a lot of therapy and vulnerability, Leaf has been a huge success story in media by owning up to his addiction issues and becoming a better person. He regularly guest hosts on the Rich Eisen Show, produced a podcast about his downfall entitled Bust, and has moments like the video below.
Peyton Manning is beloved nationally, but because of Ryan Leaf’s honestly, vulnerability, and commitment to being better after addiction, I’d choose Leaf over Manning any day of the week.