The Indianapolis Colts had a decision to make in 1998. Fan interest was low after a 3-13 season. They were awarded the top overall pick and decided to overhaul the team. Most teams in their position change quarterbacks; which the Colts did. Jim Harbaugh was released as the team set its sights on one of the two “franchise” quarterbacks available in the 1998 NFL Draft.
Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf were very highly regarded coming out of college. Manning broke the Southeastern Conference (SEC) record for career wins with 39 at the University of Tennessee. He was showered with numerous awards and was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. Leaf threw a Pacific-10 Conference (PAC-10) record 33 touchdowns his junior year while leading Washington State to its first Rose Bowl Game in 67 years.
Both young men appeared destined for greatness. It appeared that the Colts couldn’t miss no matter who they picked. Choosing between Manning and Leaf was like choosing between a Bentley and a Rolls Royce. I mean, do you really lose either way? Well, Indianapolis chose Manning number one and the San Diego Chargers selected Leaf second overall. There has never been a wider gap between number one and number two in the history of sports.
Peyton Manning has won the NFL MVP award three times, thrown for more than 45,000 yards and 300 touchdowns in 12 seasons. He also lead the Colts to victory in Super Bowl XLI. Leaf played parts of four seasons in the NFL, managing only 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. The difference between the two is not physical ability, but sportsmanship. Manning is a tremendous example of leadership on and off the field. His foundation serves disadvanataged youth in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Indiana.
Leaf, on the other hand, was released by the Chargers in 2000. He had several altercations with coaches, teammates, fans, and the media while in San Diego. During his tumultuous stint in San Diego, Leaf was caught playing flag football while he was supposed to be rehabbing a shoulder injury. Yesterday, Ryan Leaf posted a $45,000 bond in Washington state for drug and burglary charges in Texas. Peyton Manning is not a better man than Ryan Leaf. He is a man of better character. Character can be developed along with arm strength. In essence, when you teach a kid the nine route, make sure you teach him the right route as well. Until next time…
Be a Good Sport!