By: Joe Davis, Junior Staff Writer.
Photo | Mississippi State Athletics
“When people write the Mike Leach obituary, how do you want to be remembered?"
"Well, that's their problem; they're the ones writing the obituary." I mean, what do I care? I'm dead."
Mike Leach was less one of a kind and more one of an entirely different species. In a world of coach speak and Bill Belichick press conferences, Coach Leach could fill a notebook on a thousand subjects, from marriage advice (elope) to Bigfoot to his deep interest in pirates. This is what made him different. But what made him great were two things. His absolute brilliance pertaining to the game of football and the absolute openness that he had as a human being
Like many of the rest of you, I've read and watched as stories have poured in about Coach. From Randy Morgan at Ole Miss, whose final conversation with Coach was about which animals they'd pick to defend them against the rest of a group of animals who were going to attack, to Daniel Black, whose story is that of everyone's favorite guy, a celebrity who doesn't care about his celebrity at all, a man who just enjoys talking about anything with anyone. Coach Leach was, as a man, what most men aspire to be: the most interesting, engaging man in the room.
Coach Leach's influence can be seen all over college football, as his coaching tree is vast and excellent. Sonny Dykes-TCU, Lincoln Riley-USC, Dave Aranda-Baylor, Kliff Kingsbury-Arizona Cardinals, and yes, Vol fans, even Josh Heupel, who was plucked out of Snow College in Utah, have either played, coached, or done both for Mike Leach. He once told a story about the Apache using floating gourds to hunt ducks by hiding underneath them until their unsuspecting prey was so used to the gourds that the Apache could surprise attack. Leach pointed out that this is using creativity to create an advantage and knowing when to employ that advantage. Sounds very familiar to what was seen a lot in Knoxville this year.
Coach Leach was 61 years old. Somehow he managed to be still years away from retirement while seemingly having been around forever. From Iowa Wesleyan and something called the College of the Desert to D-2 powerhouse Valdosta State, then Kentucky, and the air raid offense he crafted with Hal Mumme before becoming the head man at Texas Tech, All over this country, Coach chased the game known for its brilliance and quirks by being the best example of the brilliance and quirks it had to offer.
Facing a Friday night game against the USC Trojans in 2017, Coach had this to say:
"Really, today is Monday, but to me it's Tuesday," Leach says. "So Tuesday will be Wednesday, and Wednesday will be Thursday." But then again, we'll probably do our Thursday night routine about like we normally would, so Thursday is really just kind of Thursday. And thinking back on Sunday, it was really more like Sunday and Monday combined. But today? Monday? This is definitely Tuesday.
Michael Charles Leach passed away Monday night. But if you had asked him, he might've said, "This is definitely Tuesday."
Coach Leach was all we could aspire to be: a family man, a leader, and a man never afraid to swing his sword.