De Oliveira offered Leaf $15 an hour as a driver and house manager, supporting community members who were nearing sobriety. “From a guy who was making $5 million a year and was miserable, to be offered a job for $15 and feel actual value was very telling of where I was at that moment,” he says. Today, Leaf is Transcend’s Program Ambassador. He travels around the country and talks to students about how to make the right choices.
Leaf says his role keeps him surrounded with members of the recovery community, “who hold me accountable.” “I didn’t necessarily want this or think I wanted this, but those I trust and who are mentors of mine made a solid point to me. ‘Now that you’ve found this peaceful and un-chaotic life, if you don’t give it away to others, you’ll never get to keep it.’ I will not be able to keep this peace that I have found if I do not give it away.”
Leaf also runs his own nonprofit, called the Focused Intensity Foundation, which funds scholarships for people who can’t afford substance abuse and mental health treatment. “If it weren’t for the grants that were available to me because of the NFL, I wouldn’t have been able to get treatment,” he says. “I don’t want anybody ever who truly wants help and is willing to ask for it not to be able to receive it because they can’t afford it.”
In the fall of 2017, Leaf and his fiancée, Anna Kleinsorge, welcomed a baby boy named MacGyver. Fatherhood was one role he’d never imagined himself in. “I was still in a place when I got out of prison where I thought I’d never be a dad. I was so selfish in my thinking that I was like, ‘I never want to give somebody my last name, for fear that they’d be ridiculed,’” he says. “It was such a selfish way of thinking. That was my father’s name. That was my grandfather’s name. Those are exceptional men who raised me right.”
When Kleinsorge revealed that she was pregnant, Leaf’s attitude changed. “She said it was the biggest smile she’d ever seen in her life.”
Leaf says he’s working to be the best father — and the best human being — he can be. “The best thing about all of this is all the things I’ve been through are going to most likely make me a great father, because I’m going to be able to be vulnerable and transparent with my son, and teach him a lot of things I didn’t necessarily know… like the idea that asking for help is weakness, when in reality it’s the strongest thing you can ever do.”
Now, Leaf takes life day to day. He knows that staying sober is a matter of persistence, and that if he doesn’t constantly commit to maintaining a drug-free life, he could easily end up back at rock bottom.
“I behaved a certain way for 38 years of my life… so it may take another 38 before I actually figure this all out. I like to call it a maintenance program,” he says. “I’m not so worried about the drug of choice that I used. I’m worried about the person, the human being that I was, the individual who had to medicate because he felt this way. And so I’ve taken steps to correct those things.”
January 08, 2018
Janet O’Dell, RN