Ryan Leaf, the No. 2 overall selection in the 1998 NFL Draft who is now an ambassador for mental and behavioral health issues, will be speaking Friday at UT Martin.
Leaf was a Heisman Trophy finalist after the 1997 season where he led Washington State to its first Rose Bowl in 67 years. He also earned first team All-American accolades before being picked by the San Diego Chargers in the 1998 NFL Draft.
After Leaf’s professional playing career was limited to four seasons, he struggled with opioid addiction and found himself in legal troubles. The Great Falls, Montana native served time in prison but used that experience as an opportunity to accomplish something of greater importance, describing it as a time of “spiritual growth and humility.”
The 43-year old has been sober for seven years and is a voice for the recovery community.
Leaf hopes to inspire others to begin their road to recovery to see that happiness and health can always be achieved. He chooses to share his story dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse in order to reach the person who cannot yet imagine a better life for themselves. His wish is to be an example that a better life is always possible while working to eliminate the mental health stigma.
Leaf’s speaking engagement is open to the public and will take place at 4:00 in Watkins Auditorium at UTM.