The luncheon was chaired by The Menninger Clinic Foundation board members Poppi Massey and Susie Peake and honored local sober high school Archway Academy for its work supporting the education and recovery of teens with substance use disorder.
Keynote speaker Leaf was interviewed on stage by award-winning journalist Steven Devadanam, who revealed he was treated at Menninger in 2009 for depression and struggles with alcohol. Devadanam credited Leaf with inspiring him to share his story.
“I have been so inspired by Ryan Leaf. His accountability and his triumph taught me a lot,” Devadanam said.
A Heisman trophy finalist and second overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Leaf became known as one of the NFL’s greatest draft “busts,” playing four seasons before depression and addiction contributed to the end of his professional football career. During the interview, Leaf described being in the spotlight as an elite athlete most of his life and his difficulties dealing with failure.
“In the darkest of moments, whether it was a reporter telling a negative story about me or a fan yelling at me, I had no way to deal with that in a healthy, positive way,” he said.
Leaf said that being accepted into a treatment facility, receiving a mental health diagnosis and focusing on service to others has helped him to turn his life around.
“I’m okay with who I am,” Leaf said. “I’m this flawed human being, like everybody else, who is trying to be better every day.”
Photo (from left): President and CEO Armando Colombo; Director of Addictions & Recovery Services Sonia Roschelli, LCSW-S, LCDC; Ryan Leaf; Archway Academy Executive Director Sasha Coles, LMFT, LPC; Medical Director of Addictions Services Daryl Shorter, MD.