I’ve always called him “the most interesting man in college football.” Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach was many things: outspoken, garrulous, controversial, unfiltered. As a professional, he was part of a visionary group of coaches at Valdosta State that revolutionized college football and then brought the Air Raid’s reign of terror to Oklahoma and beyond. As a program builder, he was one of the more consistent and underrated men in the sport over the past two decades.
To that list of adjectives, unfortunately we must now call him recently-deceased.
This morning, Mike Leach passed away following a massive heart attack and severe cerebral trauma. He had a cardiac event in his home over the weekend, and was not discovered for several minutes following. He was eventually airlifted to Jackson, but time and lack of oxygen had done their work. The most inimitable part of Mike Leach, his brain, was simply too damaged to carry on.
He was 61.
There will be many remembrances and anecdotes and funny stories about Coach Leach over the coming days. They will chart his quiet but meteoric rise from a Pepperdine law grad to offensive powerhouse. We will be treated to countless Xs and Os features regarding his coaching acumen — and they are all deserved. His turn of phrase, his eccentricities, his interests will all be lain bare for public consumption.
But there will not be nearly enough tales told that emphasize his humanity. If Leach’s charm lie anywhere, it was in his authentic humanity and ability to just be a regular guy. The sort of character that everyone knows, very few really understand, but with whom a brief brush makes our lives the better for it.
As former WSU beat writer, John Canzano, wrote yesterday, Mike Leach said of coaching and parenting, “you gotta be present and genuine. Kids can sniff out a fake a mile away.”
Coach Leach was anything but a fake; we are diminished by his absence.
Rest in Peace, Coach.
May the ground lie softly on you.