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CATCHING UP WITH... MICHIGAN QUARTERBACK RICK LEACH SEPTEMBER 6, 1976

Aug. 26, 1996
Aug. 26, 1996

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Aug. 26, 1996

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College Football '96

CATCHING UP WITH... MICHIGAN QUARTERBACK RICK LEACH SEPTEMBER 6, 1976

The cover subject of our college football preview issue 20 years
ago was Michigan's 19-year-old sophomore quarterback, Rick
Leach. SI showed prescience in giving the youngster such
treatment: That year Leach would lead Michigan to the first of
three straight Rose Bowls, and in his four years at Ann Arbor he
would set two NCAA records: most touchdowns running and passing
(79) and most points responsible for (474), both since broken.
Leach was drafted by the Denver Broncos of the NFL and the
Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, but he chose
to pursue a career in baseball. That seemed wise: Leach, a
Michigan native who had played centerfield brilliantly for the
Wolverines, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the first round
in 1979, and he looked forward to playing close to home. But he
would learn, as we all must, that our best-laid schemes often go
awry.

This is an article from the Aug. 26, 1996 issue

Leach was not an instant sensation with the Tigers. He spent two
seasons in the minors and another two bouncing between the
bushes and the parent club. He finally stuck with Detroit in
1983, but he hit only .248 in 99 games as a part-timer. The
Tigers dropped him in 1984, and he signed a minor league
contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. He played his first full
season in Toronto in '86 and had his best year, batting .309 in
110 games. Then the trouble began. In '87 Leach went AWOL from
the Jays for several days. The absence was dismissed under the
rubric of "personal problems"--but, in fact, he had begun using
cocaine. He signed with the Texas Rangers as a free agent in
1989, and the next year he signed with the San Francisco Giants.

Leach was immensely popular with Giants players and fans. He hit
.293 in 78 games, but then he came a cropper: On Aug. 6, 1990,
after failing a drug test, he was suspended for 60 days and
ordered to undergo rehabilitation. Leach rejoined the Giants for
spring training in 1991, but San Francisco, loaded with
outfielders, released him. He was profoundly disappointed, but
he said he had emerged from the ordeal of drug rehab "realizing
how much I've really got going in my life."

Happily, Leach has gone on with that life. He works as an
insurance agent in Farmington Hills, Mich., where he lives with
his wife, Angela, and their three sons. Rick has, at 39,
achieved blessed serenity. "I made a mistake," he says, "and I
was held accountable for it. There really is nothing more to
say."

--Ron Fimrite

COLOR PHOTO: LANE STEWART [Cover of September 6, 1976 issue of Sports Illustrated featuring Rick Leach]