Two years ago, while employed as quarterbacks coach at Division II West Texas A&M, former Washington State star Ryan Leaf was accused of burglarizing a player’s home. An investigation revealed that Leaf had obtained nearly 1,000 pain pills from area pharmacies over an eight-month span. Leaf ultimately reached a plea agreement that placed him on probation for 10 years.
On Saturday, the Randall County (TX.) District Attorney who negotiated Leaf’s probation agreement, James Farren, said he will file a motion Monday seeking to revoke it. “While I hoped for better results,” Farren told The Associated Press, “I’m not surprised it happened.”
Authorities in Great Falls, MT., Leaf’s home town, arrested the former Cougar quarterback Friday, charging him with burglary, possession of a dangerous drug and theft. Police released Leaf, who is scheduled to make a court appearance Monday, after he posted $76,000 bail.
After arresting Leaf, the Pac-10’s 1997 Offensive Player of the Year who led the Cougars to the Rose Bowl following that season, Great Falls drug enforcement authorities said Leaf might have been breaking into Montana homes in search of prescription drugs for more than 1½ years. Central Montana Drug Force Commander Chris Hickman encouraged other victims to come forward.
“We do have some information that this may not be an isolated incident,” Hickman said.
Following his arrest, Leaf released a statement through his Seattle-based publicist, Wendy Ogunsemore.
“I’ve made some mistakes, and have no excuses,” the statement read. “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.”
Bill Kelly, Leaf’s defense attorney in the Texas case, told the AP, “People get hooked on these things (prescription drugs) and it’s hard to get off of them. It’s just a sad, sad deal because he was doing so well.”
Leaf, the No. 2 pick in the 1998 NFL draft after Peyton Manning, could be facing a long stretch in prison.
Farren, the Randall County prosecutor, said if the Texas judge revokes Leaf’s probation, he could go to prison for longer than the 10-year probation term. The judge could, Farren added, treat each of Leaf’s drug charges in Texas seven counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud and one count of delivery of a simulated controlled substance separately because that’s the way the plea deals were done.
Some of the charges carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
“The judge could stack them,” Farren said.
Leaf had a brilliant career at Washington State. Following his junior season, he finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, was named to multiple All-America teams, and received the Sammy Baugh Passer of the Year award.
After helping end WSU’s 67-year Rose Bowl drought, and setting Pac-10 passing records with 3,968 yards and 33 TDs, Leaf joined the San Diego Chargers with most expecting that he would enjoy a productive NFL career.
But Leaf, immature and unable to handle NFL responsibilities, flamed out after playing in just 25 games.
Seattle communications consultant Greg Witter, who in 2011 co-wrote a book with Leaf titled “596 Switch” (a WSU passing play), said Leaf worked hard to fight his addiction, and had even checked himself into rehab.
“I’m hopeful this is a misunderstanding of some kind and that Ryan can continue making the great strides in his life that we’ve all seen over the last three years,” Witter said.