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Former Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf named to ballot for College Football Hall of Fame

Former Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf works the sidelines as a reporter during WSU’s Crimson and Gray spring game on April 23 at Gesa Field in Pullman. Leaf was named Monday to the ballot for the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame class.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

Ryan Leaf, the star quarterback who raked in accolades after guiding Washington State to new heights in 1997, has been named to the ballot for the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame class.

The National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame on Monday revealed the list of potential inductees. Leaf, who is making his first appearance on the ballot, is one of 80 former FBS players hoping to be enshrined at the Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

The class will be announced in early 2023 and inducted in December of that year.

Should Leaf be selected, he will join five other WSU alums in the Hall of Fame – offensive linemen Mel Hein, Mike Utley and Turk Edwards, and running back Rueben Mayes and kicker Jason Hanson, who was inducted in 2020.

Leaf came to WSU ahead of the 1994 season and captured starting duties in ‘96. The Montana native threw for 2,811 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions that year and WSU went 5-6.

As a junior, Leaf broke out as a transformative talent and led the Cougars to arguably their best season in program history, and their first Rose Bowl game since 1930. WSU lost to Michigan 21-16, but Leaf’s legacy in Pullman was cemented.

He amassed 3,968 yards and 34 TDs against 11 interceptions that season, setting conference and WSU records for passing yards, passing TDs and total offense. Leaf earned the Pac-10’s offensive player of the year honor and landed on Sporting News’ All-America first team. He finished third in Heisman Trophy voting and brought home the Sammy Baugh Passer of the Year Award. Leaf declared for the NFL draft after his junior season and was picked second overall by the San Diego Chargers.

Leaf spent four years in the NFL. Injuries and off-the-field struggles derailed his pro career. These days, he is involved in several ventures and remains active in the WSU and college football communities. Leaf works as an analyst for multiple media outlets, including ESPN, Pac-12 Network and Sky Sports.

“What an incredible honor,” Leaf tweeted. “I’m so glad I can truly appreciate it now. The player may have deserved this some time ago, but the man didn’t. I’m very proud of the man I see in the mirror today and am incredibly grateful and blessed for this (recognition).”