JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. - Young ears of North Jackson High gathered today to learn life lessons. Lessons former NFL Quarterback Ryan Leaf ultimately had to face on his own. "I'm not telling you what to do or what not to do. I just want you to develop some self awareness," says Leaf.
Ryan Leaf had a very successful career at Washington State, becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist his junior year of college. He was the second pick in the 1998 NFL draft standing along side greats like Peyton Manning and Randy Moss. "I was really naive to what success was."
His NFL career came to a screeching halt after just 6 years. "Oh it's easy. It's a very easy life," says Leaf. Struggling on and off the field, Leaf decided to leave the game. "For a long time, I wasn't able to cope with life and it just so happens that I would fall flat on my face just in front of the whole world."
What he felt was failure led him to a life of drug addiction and even crime. Crime that resulted in 3 years in prison. "Just because you're a great football player doesn't make you a good person," said Leaf. "I think a lot of people have dealt with the exact same things I dealt with and their stories are just the same. It just so happens that mine was a very public meltdown."
After 3 years of growth and reflection, he decided to give back to young minds who could possibly face some of his same struggles. "The things I've gone through that makes me relatable to people they know themselves."
His advice: keep good friends, seek help and always consider every decision you make. "You always have a choice in everything when it comes to dealing with life in a positive, healthy way, or a toxic one."