Mississippi State honors late coach Mike Leach with ‘Pirate’ helmet decal

Jan 2, 2023, 9:27 AM | Updated: 9:34 am

The 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl — formerly known as the Outback Bowl — will be paying tribute to a fallen coach on Monday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay.

No. 22 Mississippi State will be honoring the late Mike Leach with a pirate decal featuring the initials “ML” on its helmets when the Bulldogs take on the Illinois Fighting Illini.

Leach’s nickname was “Pirate.”

Leach, who died at the age of 61 on Dec. 13, gave one of the greatest contributions to the game of college football by being an innovator of the Air Raid offense.

One of his disciples and former quarterback at Texas Tech from 1998-2002 was current Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

“I don’t think he ever realized how big a figure he was in college football,” Kingsbury told reporters on Dec. 13. “I wish he could have seen the outpouring because I don’t think it ever hit him like that.”

The No. 10 USC Trojans will also be paying tribute to Leach with a “ML” decal on the back of their helmets when they take on the No. 16 Tulane Green Wave in the 2023 Cotton Bowl.

USC head coach Lincoln Riley backed up Kingsbury at Texas Tech in 2002 before serving as an assistant coach under Leach from 2003-09.

“There’s a bunch of (memories), but you would learn a lot about life — probably 50-50 life and football in his meetings,” Kingsbury said. “And he always thought everybody was open. … That was kind of his beauty, he truly thought that his offense was unstoppable.

“He made you believe in yourself more so than you did. … Everywhere he’s gone he’s won. There’s a method to the madness and it just was an honor to call him a friend.”

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Mississippi State honors late coach Mike Leach with ‘Pirate’ helmet decal