Ryan Leaf’s Colts Jersey
The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project—unveiled every Wednesday from May through July—detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.
Here’s all you need to know about how inexact the science of drafting can be: Last February, the first overall pick in the 1998 draft, Peyton Manning, was playing for his second team in his third Super Bowl at the end of his fifth MVP season, in which he earned a $25 million salary.
The second overall pick from ’98, Ryan Leaf, was in a Montana prison, having flamed out of the NFL after five seasons. He was arrested twice in two days in 2012 and sentenced to five years on felony drug and burglary charges. During the sentencing, Leaf told the judge, "I'm lazy and dishonest and selfish. These were behaviors I had before my addiction kicked in."
In Leigh Steinberg’s book The Agent: My 40-Year Career Making Deals and Changing the Game, Leaf’s representative revealed that the Washington State QB intentionally skipped his pre-draft meeting with the Colts in order to avoid being taken No. 1, leaving Indy and San Diego fans alike to wonder what might have been had the 1998 draft gone down differently. For one, the No. 16 Colts jersey pictured above would have been awarded to Leaf had Indianapolis called his name first at Madison Square Garden during the 1998 draft. Signed by Leaf, it hangs on the set of the Dan Patrick Show in Milford, Conn. Manning’s No. 18 Colts shirt will be hanging from the rafters in Indianapolis someday.
— Robert Klemko