Mike Leach: No vanilla extract. No switchblades.

There was often an uncomfortable murmur wafting through the stadium in Lubbock during the first few
years of Mike Leach’s tenure as Texas Tech’s Head Football Coach. It wasn’t always there, sometimes it
was replaced with violent celebration and eruptions of joy. But the uncomfortable murmurs would
inevitably return. “He’s doing what?” they’d ask. “He’s going for it again?” they’d say.

I never met the man. Never so much as shook his hand. But he was one of those rare souls that,
regardless of familiarity, you felt as if you knew everything about him and that he knew everything about you. Perhaps it was the complete lack of polish and utter disregard for social norms that made him so knowable. Or maybe it was the IDGAF cut to his jib that drew us all in. But we all felt like we knew him.

I was there for most of those uncomfortable murmurs in the early years and I took pride in the parallel trajectories of both of our careers. We both got our “starts,” in 2000 and rode the wave. He found success running four verts while I was raising a young family, moving up and down the state and chasing the dream of someday being an empty suit in a big bank’s boardroom. We peaked in 2008 and came crashing back to earth soon after. But I always felt a kinship with the man and will fondly remember riding that wave with him.

Mike Leach was our avatar. We could vicariously live through his decisions and antics and fat little
girlfriends and shake our heads in wonderment. He was absolutely unafraid to do all the things we ever
wanted to do but shied away from. Fourth and long? No problem let’s go for it. Pepperdine Law School? I can do that, then maybe I’ll go coach football in Iowa. Can a pirate beat a soldier? Sure, sometimes. You’re gonna sue the university that hired you because they fired you? Four verts, motherfucker.

And yes, he had his flaws and rightful detractors. He wasn’t a perfect man. He wasn’t a hero. He was a husband, a father, and a damn good football coach. And there was a decade in time, in a place where cotton is king and where soulful music flows, and where the people are good and honest and pure, and where the ghosts of pioneers and conquistadors whisper to you from the pecan trees and elms–there was a time that he was one of us. There was a time of uncomfortable murmurs and violent celebrations. There was a time when he was ours.


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