Former WSU QB Ryan Leaf hired as ESPN college football analyst
ESPN has hired former WSU quarterback Ryan Leaf as a college football analyst. He will be paired with play-by-play announcer Clay Matvick. They will call games on ESPN2 and ESPNU.
Last football season, Leaf worked for Pac-12 network, and has been co-hosting a show on SiriusXM’s Pac-12 channel.
After struggling with drug addiction and spending time in prison, Leaf has made a remarkable comeback.
Leaf left WSU after his junior season, where he led the Cougs to the 1997 Rose Bowl. He finished third in the Heisman vote (the highest in WSU history), and was selected by the San Diego Chargers with the second pick in the 1998 NFL draft.
After three seasons in San Diego, Leaf totaled four wins as a starter. In 2001 the Chargers released him. He had brief stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, and Seattle Seahawks before abruptly retiring at the age of 26 in 2002, just prior to the start of the Seahawks training camp.
In 2009, Leaf was indicted on burglary and controlled substance charges in Texas. He pled guilty in 2010 and was sentenced to ten years probation and a $20,000 fine.
In 2012, Leaf was arrested on burglary, theft, and drug charges in his home town of Great Falls, Montana. He was sentenced to seven years in the custody of the Department of Corrections, and spent the first nine months in a lockdown addiction treatment facility.
In December 2014, Leaf was released from prison and began to map out plans for his future.
While at WSU, Leaf earned a broadcast journalism degree from Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.
“I had the ability to do it, or at least the know-how. I just didn’t know what I was going to do,” Leaf told the Associated Press.
Leaf reached out to others who made the transition from player to broadcaster. He shadowed sportscasters such as Kirk Herbstreit, Brady Quinn, and Joel Klatt.
“I realized two things: I really wanted to do it and I really felt like I could do a good job at it,” Leaf said.
Leaf received a call from ESPN with a job offer about a month ago. He expects to travel the country to call games and do a couple of studio shows.
“Five years ago, sitting in a prison cell, I never would have imagined that I was going to part of ESPN,” Leaf said. “I can’t believe it. I lay my head down every night with a ton of gratitude.”
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