The football world lost a well-respected presence on Monday with the passing of Mike Leach after suffering from heart complications over the weekend. He was only 61 years old, and the news came as a shock following the conclusion of his team Mississippi State’s regular season.
Leach’s legacy carries on to many former players and coaches under his learning tree. He also built friendships with other coaches across college football and the NFL, like Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. The two didn’t know each other from their time at BYU, but Leach had visited Reid in the NFL when he was coaching the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Yeah, no, that was after me. I’m a little bit older, but I knew Mike (Leach),” said Reid. “(He was a) good guy and very creative. He didn’t visit here, but he spent some time with us in Philadelphia during training camp a couple of different times and just a good guy. It’s a sad deal. He left a nice legacy behind him, for sure, for football. Like I said, very unique.”
Reid told an interesting story about the late Bulldogs head coach to reporters on Wednesday, one that encapsulates the type of person he was.
“I love the story he told me about Donald Trump,” Reid said. “We got talking about that, years ago even before Donald (Trump) was the president. And he goes, ‘Oh yeah, I was walking through New York. I saw the tower. Went up, introduced myself to him.’ Like it was no big deal (laughter). He talked himself through. Donald had security back then too. He talked himself through that, and then Donald found him, that kind of person out. He was just a unique, unique guy. And that’s the way he coached. And that’s why everybody loved him, for that.”
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury played for Leach at Texas Tech in the early 2000s, and his style carried over to his teachings. A similar coaching style would later influence a young Patrick Mahomes when he attended Texas Tech. Mahomes shared his thoughts on Leach and his influence during Wednesday’s press conference.
“Yeah, a huge influence,” said Mahomes. “The way that I play the sport, I feel like it fits that scheme very well of just finding space throughout the field, and even though he might not see that ‘Mike Leach coach’ in the NFL, I feel like a lot of his schemes and type of how to play has kind of infiltrated the NFL. So obviously he was – (Cardinals Head) Coach (Kliff) Kingsbury – that was his coach. That was (Mike) Leach’s first quarterback and influenced him to become a coach; I learned from Coach Kingsbury, so I feel like I’ve learned from Mike Leach himself, so just prayers to his family, man. I mean (it’s) obviously a sad deal, but his impact will be known for a long time around the NFL and around college football as well.”
Mahomes was a standout at Texas Tech setting multiple NCAA Division I FBS records, eventually earning him and Kingsbury an opportunity in the NFL. The former league MVP admits to never getting a chance to meet Leach, but he has connected with others that knew him well.
“I didn’t get to meet him. But I knew a lot of people that knew him,” said Mahomes. “I’ve worked a little bit with (West Virginia Offensive Coordinator) Graham Harrell, who obviously played with him and coached with him at Washington State. Obviously, (University of North Texas Head Coach) Eric Morris, was another offensive coordinator I had at Texas Tech, who was there. There are so many people that I’ve known that have known him and told me about the amazing stories. I think everybody’s heard of the characteristics that he has. But I mean he loved football. He made a huge impact on the game.”
Defensive coordinator Zach Arnett will coach Leach’s Mississippi State Bulldogs in the upcoming ReliaQuest Bowl on Jan. 2 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The game will be emotional for the players and coaches, but it also gives the team another way of honoring their late head coach.