- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2019

Ryan Leaf, the former No. 2 overall draft pick who famously flamed out of the NFL in four years and spent time in prison later in life, has been hired by ESPN as a color commentator for college football games.

It won’t be Leaf’s first time working as an analyst. He worked in a similar role for the Pac-12 Network last year.

Leaf and Peyton Manning entered the NFL at the same time, causing plenty of speculation about who would be the better pro quarterback, which is now laughable in hindsight. The Indianapolis Colts selected Manning No. 1 over Leaf, and the San Diego Chargers grabbed Leaf second after his excellent college career at Washington State.

Manning won two Super Bowls with two different teams and went down as one of the greatest of all time. Leaf’s career was dashed early by a combination of injuries, poor play and poor attitude. The Chargers released him after his third season, and he failed to catch on with some other teams that took a chance on him.

He was charged on a range of felony counts later in life, from burglary to obtaining controlled substances by fraud. USA Today once noted that Leaf “spent almost as much time in prison (32 months) as he did in the NFL (three seasons).” 

Ryan has experienced the highs and lows in the game of football, putting him in a position to relate to a wide range of situations players can find themselves in,” said Lee Fitting, ESPN’s senior vice president of production. “He will be able to rely on those experiences — including an unbelievable college career where he was an All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist — in his analysis, making him a tremendous asset for our team.”

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