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“It didn’t matter,” Leaf said of getting no salary. “I was getting to work with the kids.”

The Texas Panhandle school was far enough away from his past, his meltdowns, his reputation.

In his first two seasons there, the Buffaloes won 23 of 26 games, and Leaf’s quarterback, Keith Null, was tossing the ball all over the Lone Star Conference.

In early 2008, and now coaching golf as well as football, Leaf re-injured his wrist. A trip to a doctor brought relief for the pain. But he kept going back, tapping as many as 10 other doctors for painkillers months after the wrist stopped hurting.

Leaf even visited injured players and stole some of their pain meds. To keep the players from noticing, sometimes Leaf would replace pills he took with medication to treat gout, said James Farren, whose office later prosecuted Leaf.

Farren said Leaf might still be using if not for a burglary at a A&M player’s home.

“Strangely, the only thing missing was medication,” Farren said. A neighbor identified Leaf and an investigation began. Leaf’s “name popped up all over the place” when Farren’s office began checking area pharmacies; in an eight-month span Leaf had obtained nearly 1,000 pain pills.

He resigned in November 2008, was indicted in June 2009 and this past April pleaded guilty to eight felony drug charges in an agreement with prosecutors. He got 10 years of probation.

“For me it was an isolation thing. It was almost running and hiding,” Leaf said. “I just didn’t want to have to deal with anybody or any of those demons of failure or disappointment that I let people down.”

His behavior, not a love of drugs, brought him to addiction, he said.

The roots of it started long ago, though.

“I believe my addiction started when I was probably 15 or 16 years old, when I decided that this competitive person was going to be the end-all, be-all _ this is how I was going to beat people, this was how I was going to win, whether you like me or not,” he said.

His addiction also showed him he could fall further than his NFL debacle.

“It was letting down a bunch of young individuals who looked up to me and who I really cared about coaching,” he said.

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