One day before the 2017 NFL Draft begins, former No. 2 overall pick Ryan Leaf provided a cautionary tale for this year’s prospects.
The second overall pick of the 1998 draft wrote a letter to his younger self for The Players’ Tribune, reflecting on his rise and fall from a leader of the San Diego Chargers to unemployed after just four seasons.
“That’s you, young Ryan Leaf, at his absolute finest: arrogant, boorish, narcissistic,” Leaf wrote to himself about the day he was drafted, after which he pulled an all-nighter in Vegas.
“You think you’re on top of the world and that you’ve got all the answers. Well I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the truth is … you don’t know shit.”
Leaf was instantly named the Chargers’ starting quarterback as a rookie, and even won his first two games. But he suffered a staph infection in Week 2 and subsequently went 1-for-15 with two interceptions and three lost fumbles in Week 3.
He then had a famous run-in with a local reporter and alienated veteran teammates such as Junior Seau, John Carney, and Rodney Harrison. The Chargers released Leaf after three seasons and he bounced around from team to team for a year before calling it quits.
What followed was a spiral that included painkillers, alcohol, and arrests. He even googled manners in which to commit suicide. After a prison stint, though, Leaf found sobriety and perspective.
“I know I’ve been hard on you here, but what I’ve been doing since I got out of prison is sharing my story with as many people as possible. And I know that if there’s anybody in this world that can help, it’s you,” Leaf wrote to himself.
He vowed that if he could go back, he’d change the way he treated others.
“If I have just one piece of advice to leave you with, it would be … don’t be a dick, man. You’ll be amazed at how much you get back when you just treat other people with dignity and respect. And it feels pretty damn good.
“Oh, and congrats again on that whole getting drafted thing. Enjoy it while it lasts.”
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