Former Washington State and NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf was arrested Friday in Palm Desert, California, according to jail records.
Leaf, 44, was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic battery by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department at 1:59 p.m. Friday, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s office jail records. Leaf is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday and was held on $5,000 bail Friday night.
Leaf played for the Cougars from 1995-97 and led them to the 1998 Rose Bowl, their first appearance in the game in 67 years. He was selected with the second overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers.
A native of Great Falls, Montana, Leaf has spent the last two years working as a college football color analyst. He worked multiple WSU games for the Pac-12 Network before inking a deal with the ESPN networks in July of 2019. Leaf and broadcast partner Clay Matvick were on the call for the Cougars’ most recent game, a 31-21 loss to Air Force in the Cheez-It Bowl at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Last year, Leaf was also inducted into the 2019 WSU Athletics Hall of Fame, and was celebrated on the field during the Cougars’ Sept. 7 game against Northern Colorado.
Leaf’s career in the NFL lasted just five seasons. The former Heisman Trophy finalist is widely considered one of professional football’s biggest disappointments, especially in relation to where he was picked in the 1998 draft, just one spot after Indianapolis Colts great and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.
Seven years after his NFL career ended, after Leaf made just 21 starts with the San Diego Chargers and Dallas Cowboys, he encountered legal trouble and was indicted on burglary and controlled-substance charges in Texas. Three years later, Leaf was in Great Falls when he was arrested on burglary, theft and drug charges, then arrested less than a week later on similar charges.
Leaf’s situation worsened when he was found guilty of “behavior that violated conditions of his drug treatment placement” and subsequently accused of threatening a program staff member at his rehabilitation center. In May 2014, Leaf was incarcerated in Shelby, Montana, and four months later was sentenced to five years, although he was released seven months later.
Since his release, Leaf has managed to curb his substance abuse problems and used his platform to speak to various groups about the severity of drug addiction. In addition to his work in sports media – Leaf co-hosts a Pac-12 radio show on Sirius XM – the former QB has served as a program ambassador for Transcend Recovery Community, a group of sober living houses in cities across the country.
Leaf delivered a speech at a HOF ceremony in Spokane the night before he was celebrated in front of tens of thousands of fans at Martin Stadium, telling the crowd, “I can only expect there were many years when the athlete maybe deserved to be here, but the man didn’t live up to it. And that’s why I think it’s so much more special today. I’m so glad I’m sober to appreciate what you guys have given me.
“Over the last 21 years since I left Washington State, for a long time I didn’t represent the crimson and gray very well. And because my name was recognized and talked about all the time when I messed up, you guys were drug down into the mud with it, and you didn’t deserve it. It’s an opportunity for me to apologize to all of you for having been that person for so long.”