Ryan Leaf has been hired as an ESPN college football analyst, the network announced on Sunday.
He will work as a game analyst, providing color commentary alongside play-by-play announcer Clay Matvick, primarily on ESPN2 and ESPNU.
“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,” ESPN vice president of production Lee Fitting said in a statement. “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.”
Leaf has dipped his toes in the broadcasting waters of late. He worked as a game analyst on Pac-12 Network last season and co-hosts a show on SiriusXM’s Pac-12 channel.
But Leaf’s story is much more than that, of course.
The former Washington State quarterback led the Cougars to a Pac-10 championship and a Rose Bowl appearance in 1997, a year in which he finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, behind only Pro Football Hall of Famers Charles Woodson and Peyton Manning. He was selected second overall in the 1998 NFL draft and then flamed out–spectacularly.
Leaf played in only 25 games as a professional, the first tumble in a decade-long fall that eventually found him addicted to Vicodin and incarcerated with multiple burglary and drug convictions. He was in and out of Texas and Montana jails for the first part of this decade, but was released in December of 2014 and has since spent time rebuilding his life–including a new career as a broadcaster.
“Five years ago sitting in a prison cell I would have never imagined that I was going to be part of ESPN and the Disney Corporation,” Leaf told the Associated Press. “If you would have told me that I would have said you are absolutely crazy. And I can’t believe it. I lay my head down every night with a ton of gratitude.”