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Ryan Leaf to talk about addiction in the NFL

Long removed from being the toast of Pullman and a player many considered the next great NFL quarterback, Ryan Leaf has seen his life come full circle.

The former No. 2 overall pick of the San Diego Chargers only played three seasons in the league, posting a 4-17 record while throwing 14 touchdowns compared to 36 interceptions in 21 starts.

Considered one of the biggest busts in league history, Leaf’s post-NFL life has been filled with addiction and imprisonment. Now, looking to overcome these demons, Leaf is planning on hosting a town hall meeting in Dallas on Saturday to discuss opioid addiction.

In discussing a specific incident that led to imprisonment, Leaf talked about just how much his addiction impacted his life.

“Burglary, I ended up walking into random people’s homes knocking on the door. (If) no one was available, I would try the handle, walk right in,” Leaf said, via a local Dallas CW affiliate. “Most people in this country have some sort of opioid painkillers sitting around in their medicine cabinet.”

Leaf’s story is something that needs to be told. He seemingly had the entire football world at his beck and call after being selected just one spot behind Peyton Manning back in 1998. Less than 20 years later, he was burglarizing houses in order to get his next fix.

The former Washington State quarterback ended up spending three years in prison stemming from this incident. He’s also admitted to attempting to end his life while under the influence of drugs.

At a time when the NFL itself is facing the wrath of the general public due to its drug policy, it’s interesting that Leaf would speak out now.

Remember, former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe walked away from the game after a very public split regarding opioid use in the NFL and its policy against medical marijuana (more on that here).

It also comes at a time when the NFL is facing continued pressure to help wean its players off the medical painkiller epidemic that has defined the league for decades now.

If nothing else, Leaf can act as a voice of authority here. After all, his use of these drugs was prevalent during his playing deals — long before he hit rock bottom off the field.

“I just didn’t live up to expectations playing wise, and so I medicated myself once the competition and I guess the fame, of some sort, was away,” Leaf continued. “I really didn’t have an identity.”

Leaf’s town hall will take place at the Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas on Sunday.