When former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf made the news again this week, it was over stolen pain medication, not long ago football glory.
Leaf was arrested in his hometown of Great Falls, Montana twice in four days. Last Friday, following a month-long investigation by the Central Montana Drug Task Force, he was apprehended after a search of his pickup truck led to the discovery of oxycodone pills that law enforcement officials believe he stole from an acquaintance’s home.
Then on Monday – after being released on a $76,000 bond — Leaf was arrested again after he was accused of breaking into another home outside Great Falls and stealing pain medication. When police arrested him, they found nearly 100 oxycodone pills.
“It’s a pretty sad deal,” said Leaf’s attorney, Kenneth Olson. “Obviously it’s a product of Ryan’s addictive behavior.”
Leaf’s fall from grace has been well chronicled. He was a star at C.M. Russell High School in Great Falls before attending Washington State, where he led the Cougars to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 67 years. He was drafted second only behind Peyton Manning, but his NFL career quickly turned into a bust.
“(Leaf’s) biggest robbery was me drafting him and him getting all the money from the team,” former San Diego Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard told USA Today.
After leaving pro football, Leaf was an assistant football coach at both the University of Texas at El Paso and at West Texas A&M, where he first ran into trouble with the law over painkillers.
Leaf was arrested and convicted in Randall County, Texas where he received a suspended sentence for burglarizing a player’s home. An investigation also found that Leaf obtained nearly 1,000 pain pills from pharmacies over an eight-month period. The District Attorney’s office in Randall County said it may pursue a revocation hearing against Leaf and ask to extradite him to Texas, where he would serve his term. It is unclear whether Montana officials will try Leaf first or give Texas priority.
“Becoming addicted to pain medication is a disease. Taking the painkillers causes a change in one’s brain chemistry that is not under the individual’s control,” writes Dr. Clifford Bernstein on a spinal health website.
The number of Americans abusing pain medication is estimated at 5 million by the National Information Center for Pain Medication Addiction.