Bears remember, honor Mike Leach


The football world was saddened by the news of Mike Leach’s death earlier this week. The legendary college coach made a positive impact wherever he landed, and had a knack for turning a football program around. Over stints at Texas Tech, Washington State and Mississippi State, Leach won 158 games and numerous Coach of the Year Awards. He was one of the founding fathers of the “Air Raid” offense that revolutionized the game. Yet, Leach is arguably best known for his kooky press conferences, where he would talk about anything and everything from pirates to dinosaurs to why it’s better to elope than have an extravagant wedding.

“He was a one-of-a-kind person,” said Velus Jones, who played against Leach’s WSU team while he was at USC. “You couldn’t compare anybody, he was his own person.”

He was also, by all accounts, a great person. He will be greatly missed, and on Wednesday, Bears who crossed paths with Leach took some time to remember him and honor his legacy.

When Matt Eberflus was a defensive coordinator with the Missouri Tigers, he played against Leach’s Texas Tech teams and said Leach made him a better coach, just from their head-to-head matchups. For that, Eberflus said he’ll always be thankful for Leach.

“The first time we played him, he beat us pretty good. We got a chance to play him three or four more times after that during the course of my career there. What did I learn from that? How to defend the spread. How to defend that tempo style.”

Dante Pettis grew up in California, so he watched Leach’s Cougars as he was gearing up to play college ball. He saw an offense that passed on nearly every play and wanted to go to Washington State. As things turned out, Pettis played for the in-state rival Washington Huskies.

“That offense was crazy,” Pettis said. “He’s the first one that I really saw that was legit Air Raid. Like they ran the ball, I don’t know, I would say less than 10 times. They were just throwing the ball.”

Even though Leach was the rival head coach, Pettis tuned in to see what Leach would say after Cougars games.

“There was always something interesting that was going to come out of those interviews,” Pettis said. “You never knew what you were going to get. It was always something interesting, comedic, sometimes really insightful, so I’m definitely going to miss hearing those soundbits from him.”

Jaylon Jones played against Leach’s teams most recently, since the rookie DB played at Ole Miss in 2021. Jones had a unique perspective of Leach, since he was not only on the field trying to defend Leach’s offense, but also saw how Mississippi State improved once Leach took over. Jones said Leach changed the Bulldogs for the better, and that when they were on the schedule it required special gameplanning.

“As a DB you had to be ready, because they’re gonna throw the ball, and they threw the ball a lot against us,” Jones said. “He’s a coach that needs to be in the Hall of Fame honestly. What he’s done at Washington State and Mississippi State, I think it’s caught a lot of eyes and caught a lot of attention, and he’s one of the best offensive minds in the game.”

Leach’s death was untimely and tragic, and he will be missed. But his legacy and his presence will be felt for years to come.

“He obviously touched a lot of people’s lives,” said Pettis. “Definitely left his mark on college football, football as a whole, really.”

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