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Saban mourns Leach: Our conversations ‘always made me smile’

Mississippi State head football coach Mike Leach died Monday night at the age of 61, the university announced Tuesday.

According to a release from the university, the Bulldogs’ coach died at University of Mississippi Medical Center after complications from a heart condition.

In a statement, the Leach family said the longtime college football coach “was a giving and attentive husband, father and grandfather.”

“He was able to participate in organ donation at UMMC as a final act of charity. We are supported and uplifted by the outpouring of love and prayers from family, friends, Mississippi State University, the hospital staff, and football fans around the world,” the family said. “Thank you for sharing in the joy of our beloved husband and father’s life.”

Alabama’s Nick Saban released a statement mourning the passing of Leach and recognized his SEC West Division rival coach’s eccentric personality.

“Mike Leach was a friend, and we are deeply saddened by his unexpected passing,” Saban said. “I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Mike over the last several years. I never knew quite where our conversations were going, but they always made me smile. He was an offensive innovator who always did things his way and was admired for it.

“His teams were well-coached and extremely challenging to defend. They played with poise and toughness, which is a credit to his leadership. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sharon, their children and the entire Mississippi State family.”

Leach is widely credited for modernizing college football with his “Air Raid” pass-heavy style of offense. He was named head coach of Mississippi State in January 2020 and led the Bulldogs to two consecutive winning seasons.

Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum said Leach leaves “a worthy legacy” due to his “no regrets” approach to life.

“Coach Mike Leach cast a tremendous shadow not just over Mississippi State University, but over the entire college football landscape,” said Keenum. “His innovative “Air Raid” offense changed the game. Mike’s keen intellect and unvarnished candor made him one of the nation’s true coaching legends. His passing brings great sadness to our university, to the Southeastern Conference, and to all who loved college football. I will miss Mike’s profound curiosity, his honesty, and his wide-open approach to pursuing excellence in all things.

“Mike’s death also underscores the fragility and uncertainty of our lives. Three weeks ago, Mike and I were together in the locker room celebrating a hard-fought victory in Oxford. Mike Leach truly embraced life and lived in such a manner as to leave no regrets. That’s a worthy legacy. May God bless the Leach family during these days and hours. The prayers of the Bulldog family go with them.”

Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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