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Mississippi State Head Coach and College Football Legend Mike Leach’s Life and Legacy

The sports world lost a beloved icon this past weekend as Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach died after suffering a heart attack. Leach was one of the great characters of college football. His eccentric interviews, witty jokes, and insistence on talking about anything other than football made him a welcome change to the often-militaristic style of coaching. Leach touched an incredible number of lives throughout his 21-season career, and the outcry of support from around the country has been equally incredible.

A Character of the Game

For years there have been commercials about “the most interesting man in the world.” Those commercials may as well have been about Mike Leach. Leach was not the typical college coach. Most people think of coaches as militant. All they can think about is football and nothing else. But Leach was different. He’d rather talk to a reporter about pirates or his favorite Halloween candy. In fact, that’s what he has done.

Leach’s interviews have become must-watch television. After a game against Vanderbilt, Leach was asked about his favorite Halloween candy. Leach went on for an entire minute about his favorite and least favorite candy. In another post-game interview, Leach gave fans some wedding advice. He said, “Go Elope, because basically every female in the family is going to terrorize you guys until it’s over.”

Since his sudden passing, an unbelievable amount of people have been sharing their favorite Mike Leach stories. One such story, shared by Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger, talked about one of Leach’s many walks. The story goes that Leach was out walking and saw some raccoon prints in the snow. He followed them for half a mile, and what was the reason for tracking a raccoon? “I was curious where the sucker lived.” Coach Mike Leach was truly one of a kind.

How Mike Leach Changed the Biggest Rivalry in College Football

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The rivalry between Mississippi State and Ole Miss is a bitter rivalry fueled by hatred. It is inarguably one of the biggest and most heated rivalries in college football. The coaches don’t like each other, the players don’t like each other, and the fans really don’t like each other. However, Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin changed all of that. While the rivalry is still heated, the friendship that was formed between Kiffin and Leach has made people see that you can be rivals without hating each other.

On Sports Center, Lane Kiffin stated that most coaches don’t talk in pre-game, but he looks forward to talking to coach Mike Leach every year. In talking about what their friendship means to the rivalry, Kiffin said, “There doesn’t have to be hatred amongst the program and the people. You know, you can have great rivalries and passion and still love each other.”

Many Mississippians remember the bitter rivalries between coaches like Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen. But Kiffin and Leach have been anything but bitter or hateful. Leach often joked with Kiffin that the loser of the Egg Bowl had to buy the tickets to Key West, Leach’s favorite place. Leach and Kiffin’s rivalry could only be described in one word, different.

How Mike Leach Impacted College Football

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Though it may seem like Mike Leach would rather talk about anything besides football, he is actually one of the greatest head coaches of all time. Leach’s career in football has been more impactful than any other. Leach’s coaching tree extends far past just college football. The coaches that have served as his assistants have been Sonny Dykes, who is in the college football playoff this season, Kliff Kingsbury, current head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, and Lincoln Riley, of the USC Trojans.

Leach also introduced the air raid to football, a heavy-pass offense that truly changed the game of football. Before Leach, college football was very run-heavy and, after, low scoring. Then Mike Leach became the head coach for Texas Tech. Before long, coaches all over the country were trying their hand at Leach’s offense, but none of them could run a pure air raid offense like Leach. The air raid impacted more than just college football as well. While at Texas Tech, Texas high schools took notice of Leach’s high-powered offensive scheme. Before Leach, you would be lucky to see three touchdowns scored in a Texas high school game. Then, Texas coaches got a taste of Leach’s high-powered offense, and in 2020, the Texas 6A championship game ended with a score of 52-34.

Mike Leach’s legacy is truly incredible. Most coaches are known for their brilliant minds or their kind hearts. Leach will be remembered for both. His air raid offense will live on through the countless coaches that served under him. His obsession with pirates and his charming demeanor took over fan bases. Leach’s heartwarming speeches and random thoughts entertained fans and even taught us something along the way. Mike Leach’s life was well lived, and he will be remembered by his family, his friends, and his fans.

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