Longreads Best of 2013: Award for Outstanding Reporting

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Ryan Leaf’s Jailhouse Confessions, Written By His Cell Mate

John Cagney Nash | Playboy | September 2013 | 19 minutes (4,710 words)

 

Flinder Boyd (@FlinderBoyd) is a journalist for SB Nation, Sports on Earth, and the BBC among others.

Athletes and sports writers usually come from two completely different professional worlds and as a result there is often an emotional wall between the two of them. At times, on the page, it can almost read as if two are speaking vastly different languages.

The British journalist John Cagney Nash solved this problem by somehow landing himself in the same jail in Montana as Ryan Leaf, the one-time future of the NFL and now its biggest draft bust. Over the course of a few months the two became friends and Leaf was able to open up with his fellow inmate in a way we rarely get to read about.

For years since Leaf’s retirement he’s been seen as little more than a pathetic example for all that can go wrong with the draft. Thanks to Nash’s deft touch we’re able see him as human, and at times Leaf’s honesty is downright heartbreaking.

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Illustration by Jason Mecier

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