Video: The Real Jerry Maguire, Broke, Boozed-Out, In Recovery

By Adam K. Raymond 02/21/12

Leigh Steinberg, on whom Tom Cruise's character was based, was once the biggest agent in the NFL. Now the bankrupt agent is just grateful to be sober.

Leigh Steinberg ended up in a diaper.
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Twenty years before Jerry Maguire started working out of his house as a sports agent, Leigh Steinberg did the same thing. It's not a coincidence either. Director Cameron Crowe tailed Steinberg for a year before writing the screenplay that would go on to be nominated for an Oscar. Just like Maguire, Steinberg eventually made the big-time. Unlike Maguire though, Steinberg didn't get a happy ending.

Once the agent to half of the NFL's starting quarterbacks, Steinberg is now a 62-year-old has-been, working his way through bankruptcy and searching for a second chance. Like so many before him, his downfall can be traced back to booze, which he says he used to hide from his problems. Naturally, the 1750mL jug of vodka he lugged around each day only made those problems worse. "All I wanted was more alcohol. At a certain phase, it became synonymous with breath itself," he tells Armen Keteyian on Real Sports. Rock bottom came when he found himself in a hospital wearing a diaper, after being picked up from the middle of a vacant lot where he was "just singing away and making noise."

That was in 2007. It took him three more years to get sober. Now he hasn't had a drink in two years. Although his agent days seem long gone, Steinberg's still hoping to have an impact. “If my story is a cautionary note to anyone out there who’s struggling with any kind of substance abuse, there is help,” he says.

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Adam K. Raymond covers politics and sports for New York Magazine. Visit Adam's website and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.