‘I will see you again’: Tributes pour in for late Miss. State coach Mike Leach

Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 10:00 AM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Tributes are pouring in for Mississippi State Coach Mike Leach, who passed away on the morning of December 13.

“Mississippi has lost a great Coach,” Gov. Tate Reeves wrote. “College football lost an innovator. A lot of young men lost their mentor. Fans lost a content superstar. And many of us lost a friend. I’m heartbroken.”

Leach was in his third season at Mississippi State University and had just led the Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4) to their first Egg Bowl victory during his tenure. The Bulldogs were rewarded for their strong season with an invitation to the ReliaQuest Bowl on January 2.

Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers thanked his late coach for giving him a chance as a 17-year-old. “From Wazzu, to Mississippi State I will never forget anything you taught me and the relationship we had,” he said on Twitter. “I will see you again someday coach.”

Even some of Leach’s biggest competitors on the field are paying their respects. Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin reminisced on moments they shared going back to their years together in the PAC-12. Kiffin previously coached at USC.

Meanwhile, Alabama football coach Nick Saban said he enjoyed getting to know the coach, who prior to coming to Mississippi State spent 8 seasons with Washington State and 10 seasons at Texas Tech.

“I never knew quite where our conversations were going, but they always made me smile. He was an offensive innovator who always did things his way and was admired for it,” Saban wrote in a statement posted on Alabama Football’s Twitter account. “His teams were well coached and extremely challenging to defend.”

Farther north, Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel says Leach “saw something in me when no one else did.” According to atozsports.com, Heupel played for Leach while he was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. In 1999, the Sooners won the national championship.

“I am grateful for Coach Leach’s impact on my life both personally and professionally. His offensive philosophy and vision were ahead of his time, and they continue to shape the game today,” he wrote on Twitter. “Off the field, he was one of a kind - an incredible storyteller, a man full of wisdom and someone who always cared for his former players and coaches.”

During his career, the air-raid innovator won multiple coach of the year honors and led the Washington State Cougars and Texas Tech Red Raiders to division titles. He became the winningest coach in Texas Tech history.

CNBC sports reporter Darren Rovell noted that despite his success on the field, Leach never played college ball.

Leach graduated with honors from BYU and earned his juris doctorate from Pepperdine University, according to hailstate.com. Afterward, he earned a master’s degree from the U.S. Sports Academy, which was founded in 1972 specifically to train coaches, managers, and other sports personnel.

Degrees aside, Leach also was a New York Times best-selling author, according to his Twitter Bio, and had his own IMDB page. His screen credits include an episode of Friday Night Lights. According to AL.com, Leach also penned a book about Native American leader Geronimo, was interested in pirates and taught a class about warfare.

Pinned to the top of Leach’s Twitter page was a quote from Sun Tzu, author of perhaps one of the most well-known books on warfare, The Art of War, which the late coach said summed up the “air raid offense philosophy.”

“If he (the enemy) is superior in strength, evade him. If his forces are united, separate them. Attack him where he is unprepared; appear where you are not expected.”

His influence stretched beyond the world of football, with Leach making friends with other sports personalities as well.

“Got to have a few beers with Mike Leach one evening several years ago and wanted to spend more time ever since,” racing superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr., wrote on Twitter. “Such a cool, cool dude.”

Coach Deion Sanders perhaps summed up Tuesday’s the tributes best. “God bless the Leach family, friends, loved ones, team, coaches, students and staff. Everyone he met he had a lasting impression on. [There] wasn’t a time that called for wisdom that he didn’t respond with reason. He was a truly IMPACTFUL person.”

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