KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel released a touching tribute to Mike Leach on Tuesday as the college football community mourns the death of the offensive innovator and Mississippi State coach.
Leach died Monday at the age of 61 after he was hospitalized due to a ‘personal health issue’ on Sunday. The Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, reported that Leach suffered a heart attack.
“I am heartbroken on the passing of Coach Leach. 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. Like so many across our sport, I am grateful for Coach Leach’s 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. 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. My deepest condolences go out to Coach Leach’s family, his wife Sharon, his kids and grandkids and the entire Mississippi State football program.”Josh Heupel on the death of Mike Leach
Leach was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at the University of Oklahoma in 1999 when Josh Heupel transferred there from Snow College. Heupel recorded the eighth-most passing yards in the country, nearly 3,500, in Leach’s innovative ‘air raid’ offense.
After one year at Oklahoma, Leach left to become the head coach at Texas Tech. Heupel led the 2000 Sooners to an undefeated season and a National Championship. He was named an All-American, AP Player of the Year, Walter Camp Award winner and runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.
Leach’s coaching philosophy is widely credited as a major influence on modern college football offenses, including Heupel’s.
“I can think of a play in particular that we ran back in the day. He’s got quarterback his running that play better than he ran it,” Leach quipped when asked about similarities in Heupel’s offense to his own approach in October.