Ryan Leaf quietly returns home to build a life

continued from page 1

Question of the Day

What has been the biggest debacle on Obama's watch?

View results

His parents and Leaf recall his struggles to make friends back then, often buddying up to foes more than teammates. He figured if he got to know them on the field he’d know how to react to them off the field.

“When do you realize when you’re a kid that you’re going to be great and everybody else doesn’t understand that?” Leaf told The Associated Press in a rare series of interviews. “I don’t know. I just felt I could beat everybody.”

He led C.M. Russell High to a state championship his junior year; an injury early the following season caused him to miss a third of the season.

Though she saw her son’s talent, Marcia Leaf had concerns.

She remembers coming home from her job as a registered nurse when Leaf was about 4 and finding his first football helmet _ the Steelers one he’d just gotten for Christmas _ in the trash.

“And I said, ‘Ryan, what’s wrong? Why’s the helmet in the garbage?’ And he said, ‘They lost.’ At a very young age he was all about business and winning.”

His high school football coach saw it, too. Leaf was fiercely competitive.

“He just couldn’t control his emotions and let that stuff go,” longtime Russell coach Jack Johnson said.

___

Leaf got a scholarship at Washington State, but didn’t get his first college start until late in the 1995 season, when he nearly led the Cougars to a win at No. 22 Washington in the Apple Cup. The Cougars lost 33-30 in front of about 74,000 in Husky Stadium.

Mike Price, then the Cougars coach, said Leaf could be “flighty” and “a challenge.”

They hollered at each other more than a few times, but always put it behind them, said Price, who now coaches at UTEP. Like most anybody, he said, Leaf could have used “a few more doses of humility” and he could be brutal in how he told the truth.

“At times it got him in trouble. He had a temper,” Price said. “It wasn’t always easy but he did a great job.”

Leaf blossomed as a junior, leading Washington State to a 10-2 record, a No. 8 ranking and its first Rose Bowl in 67 years. That’s when his father realized, “Well, maybe something can come out of this deal.”

He finished third in balloting for the Heisman Trophy and gave up his senior year to join the NFL, finishing his Cougar career with 7,433 yards and 59 touchdowns.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player
You Might Also Like
  • Nathan Walker waits to take the ice during the Capitals' development camp at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington on Monday, July 9, 2012. (Ryan M.L. Young/The Washington Times)

    Nathan Walker’s NHL dreams send him around the world

  • Washington Nationals' Anthony Rendon, third from left, smiles as he warms up with his teammates who were were wearing t-shirts in support of him for the All Star game before an interleague baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Anthony Rendon not an All-Star, but he’s been Nats’ MVP

  • Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter speaks during a media availability in the dugout before an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    LOVERRO: Suck-up Buck Showalter needs history lesson

  • Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez, left, celebrates with goalkeeper Sergio Romero after scoring the decisive goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup final. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

    Argentina beats Dutch in shootout to reach World Cup final

  • Washington Redskins safety Tanard Jackson speaks during a media availability after an NFL football training camp practice at Redskins Park, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely by NFL — again

  • Celebrities In The News
  • This image from video released by Funny Or Die shows President Obama, left, with actor-comedian Zach Galifianakis during an appearance on "Between Two Ferns," the digital short with a laser focus on reaching people aged 18 to 34. The president urged young people to sign up for the new health care plan through an appearance posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014, on the comic website Funny or Die, bypassing TV talk show titans like Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel for an online audience. (AP Photo/Funny Or Die)

    Obama’s ‘Ferns’ interview gets Emmy nod

  • ** FILE ** In this Nov. 12, 2013, file photo, actor Alec Baldwin leaves court in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

    Alec Baldwin in talks to play Rob Ford-like mayor in new NBC drama

  • Dinesh D'Souza's "America: Imagine the World Without Her" got promising reviews from two major Hollywood publications. It opens nationwide Wednesday.

    D’Souza on Costco debacle: ‘It was really bizarre’