Ryan Leaf: Peyton Manning Wrote Me a Letter at a Time 'I Was Just Hoping to Die'

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2021

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, right, meets with San Diego Chargers quarterback Ryan Leaf after the Colts defeated the Charges 17-12 in Indianapolis, Sunday, Oct. 4, 1998. The win was Manning's first win in the NFL. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
MICHAEL CONROY/Associated Press

When Ryan Leaf was in his "deepest, darkest hole," Peyton Manning reached out to his fellow quarterback.

With Manning eligible this year to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Leaf shared a story about Manning's actions during a point where he was at his lowest, via Bob Kravitz of The Athletic:

"When I was in my deepest, darkest hole and struggle, he reached out. I just needed a lifeline, and he was always that guy for me. During a really dark time – this is hard for most to comprehend – but I wouldn't go get my mail. I didn't want to hear from anybody. My roommate would always get my mail.

"I remember once [my roommate] brought me a letter from Peyton, but I ripped it up and threw it away – because that's who I was at the time. Others sent letters; I never read them. I was just hoping to die in there. But he reached out and he always has when things are going bad.

"It's meaningful. He's a guy I could have resented a lot because of his success and my lack of success. But I didn't. He was always such a good human being."

In the 1998 NFL draft, Manning went No. 1 overall to the Indianapolis Colts, while the San Diego Chargers drafted Leaf at No. 2. While Manning became one of the best ever at his position, Leaf struggled mightily and was out of the league by 2002.

Drug abuse and addiction led to numerous arrests. He spent two years in prison on burglary and drug possession charges after being kicked out of a treatment center. Since then, he has worked to help people recover from drug addiction, and he has worked as a college football analyst in recent years.

In May 2020, he was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor domestic battery. He was sentenced to three years probation in October as part of a plea deal to avoid jail time.