Ryan Leaf, the no. 2 overall selection in the 1998 NFL Draft who is now an ambassador for mental and behavioral health issues, will speak at 4 p.m., July 12, in the University of Tennessee at Martin’s Watkins Auditorium. There is no charge to attend the presentation, and members of both the on and off-campus communities are invited.
Leaf gained notoriety after a successful collegiate football career, where he was named a Heisman Trophy finalist after a 1997 season where he quarterbacked Washington State to its first Rose Bowl in 67 years. He also earned first team All-American accolades before being picked by the San Diego Chargers in the aforementioned 1998 NFL Draft.
After Leaf’s professional playing career was limited to four seasons, he struggled with opioid addiction and found himself in legal troubles. The Great Falls, Montana, native served time in prison but used that experience as an opportunity to accomplish something of greater importance, describing it as a time of “spiritual growth and humility.”
The 43-year old has now been sober for seven years and is a voice for the recovery community. Leaf hopes to inspire others to begin their road to recovery to see that happiness and health can always be achieved. He chooses to share his story dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse in order to reach the person who cannot yet imagine a better life for themselves. His wish is to be an example that a better life is always possible while working to eliminate the mental health stigma.
For more information, contact the UT Martin Office of Intercollegiate Athletics at 731-881-7660.