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Mike Leach Remembered Across College Football, Sports World

Mike Leach remembered across college football, sports world originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The college football world is reeling following the news of Mike Leach’s death at age 61.

The Mississippi State head coach had one of the largest personalities in the sport, and certainly never shied from being his true, blue authentic self in front of the camera.

In addition to the larger-than-life persona off the field, Leach won on it – a lot. 

Leach, a two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year and the Big 12’s Coach of the Year in 2008, finished with a 158-107 record as a head coach. His stints at Texas Tech, Washington State and Mississippi State will anchor his coaching biography, but the high-octane, “Air Raid” offense he brought to each Lubbock, Pullman and Starkville will live on long after him. 

Prior to serving as head coach at those three college towns, Leach led the Oklahoma Sooners offense under Hall of Famer Bob Stoops.

RIP Mike my friend, you’ll always be cherished by Sooner Nation! Love and peace to Sharon and your children,” Stoops wrote on Twitter, posted with an image of Leach on staff in Norman at the end of the 1990s.

The college football world lost an icon Monday night. Here’s how it has reacted upon receiving the news:

Incredibly momentous for football that Mike Leach has passed away. It is no understatement whatsoever to say that Leach fundamentally changed football forever, and I am not sure there was any more influential coach in the last 40 years, when you include high school and college.🧵

— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) December 13, 2022

Mike Leach, one of college football’s most distinctive personalities & innovative offensive minds, died Monday night, his family announced through university spokesman @sidsalter.

He was 61.

— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) December 13, 2022

We join the rest of college football today in mourning Coach Leach’s passing. Our hearts are with the Leach family and every team and community Coach Leach impacted.

— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) December 13, 2022

Got to have a few beers with Mike Leach one evening several years ago and have wanted to spend more time with him ever since. Such a cool cool dude. RIP coach.

— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) December 13, 2022

Mike Leach was 1-of-1. He was one of the best characters in sports and was an innovator that helped change football. In a world where coaches are corporate and mostly the same, he stood out because he was genuinely himself.

This is a terrible day for college football.

— Brandon Walker (@BFW) December 13, 2022

The Mike Leach coaching tree is something to beholden amongst college football diehards. 

Prominent national names like Lincoln Riley, Josh Heupel, Sonny Dykes and Kliff Kingsbury all started under Leach’s tutelage. 

Other coaches such as Dave Aranda, Sonny Cumbie, Dana Holgorsen, Seth Littrell, Art Briles, Ken Wilson, Neal Brown, Eric Morris, and Ruffin McNeill also got their starts under Leach’s program.

Riley, who is the lead man at USC after a successful career at OU, took to Twitter to pay tribute to Leach in a heartfelt response to the news of the coach’s passing.

You will certainly be missed, but your impact on so many will live on-

Thankful for every moment. You changed my life and so many others.

All of our prayers are with Sharon & the Leach family-

Rest In Peace my friend🙏

— Lincoln Riley (@LincolnRiley) December 13, 2022

“You will certainly be missed, but your impact on so many will live on,” Riley wrote. “Thankful for every moment. You changed my life and so many others.”

Kingsbury, the head coach of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, also shared his thoughts on his former mentor’s death.

Statement from Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury on the passing of Mike Leach, who was the head coach at Texas Tech during Kingsbury’s record-setting career as a QB there:

— Mark Dalton (@CardsMarkD) December 13, 2022

Heupel, who led the Oklahoma Sooners to a national championship in 2000 after Leach had taken the head coaching gig at Texas Tech, is now the head coach at Tennessee.

“I am heartbroken on the passing of Coach Leach,” Heupel wrote on Twitter. “In 1999, he gave a kid out of Snow College in Utah a shot at major college football. He saw something in me when no one else did.”

Heupel expressed gratitude towards his former coach who he clams had “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,” Heupel said. “Off the field, he was one of a kind – an incredible storyteller, a man full of wisdom and someone who always cared about his former players and coaches. I enjoyed our friendship over the years.”

Beyond the immediacy of his own coaching tree, Leach’s passing drew a response from college coaches across the country including Deion Sanders – the recently hired new head coach at the University of Colorado.

“Everyone he met he had a lasting impression on,” the NFL Hall of Famer wrote on Instagram Tuesday. “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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