USC Coach Lincoln Riley has long credited Mike Leach with launching his coaching career.
Riley, who has now coached three quarterbacks to Heisman Trophy wins, has struggled to earn game time as Texas Tech’s reserve quarterback. He knew the offense better than anyone, but a shoulder injury he sustained his senior year at Muleshoe High limited his effectiveness at throwing the ball. Riley would likely be cut before the 2003 season, so Leach asked the 19-year-old to join his coaching staff as a student assistant.
Riley took the opportunity to soak up the essentials of Leach’s air assault offense and accelerated his rise as a young college football coaching star.
The USC coach joined many others to honor Leach after the Mississippi State coach died Monday night at the age of 61 from complications from a heart condition. Leach is survived by his wife Sharon and four children. He was head coach for 21 years.
Riley posted on Twitter Tuesday Morning: “Coach – You will certainly be missed but your influence on so many will live on. – Grateful for every moment. You changed my life and so many others. All our prayers are with Sharon and the Leach family – rest in peace my friend.”
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who was also one of Leach’s associates at Texas Tech earlier in his career, posted on Twitter:
“Mike Leach was more than an incredible, innovative, impactful, successful and popular football coach. He was all that as husband to Sharon and father to Janeen, Kimberly, Cody & Kiersten! A brilliant, thoughtful, kind man who taught me so much in so many different ways. RIP Coach!
Honors flowed both inside and outside of the college football world.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/usc/story/2022-12-13/lincoln-riley-others-honor-mike-leach ‘You changed my life’: Lincoln Riley, others honor Mike Leach