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photo: Washington State Athletics
Notes from Mike Leach interview* He’s currently in Texas working a camp for McMurry College with one of his mentors, Hal Mumme, who he worked with during his time at Iowa Wesleyan College, Valdosta State and Kentucky.
* He was at a hunting ranch one time that was run by an Aggie named Rocky and had the chance to learn a bunch of the A&M traditions. From that and other encounters, he knows that it can be incredibly exciting to be an Aggie.
* Life in Pullman, Washington is great and it’s not an accident that the Washington State flag pops up at nearly every sporting event including The Masters.
* He’s been a hunter ever since growing up in Wyoming and spending time with his dad who was a forester. The Outdoor Channel has a hunting show that is hosted by a former California quarterback, so from time to time different football guys go hunting with him for the show. In his case, he went bear hunting about three and a half hours northwest of Edmonton, Alberta. After being out there for a while, a huge bear walked through the clearing they were stationed at, and after figuring out how many bears they were able to kill due to game rules, he took the shot and killed the bear.
* One thing that shocks him is how many great quarterbacks have come from Washington State. Guys like Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf fall into that category.
* The Gameday vote was an exciting thing for Washington State, and they were really hoping to win it. Washington State is not unlike A&M in the sense that they have an incredible amount of enthusiasm and identity. Pullman is a small town, so the students are very involved with everything that goes on at the school. When he first got to town, he attended a movie with his wife downtown and was surprised to not find very many students out at 10:30 on a Friday evening. It turns out that the students were pretty much all on campus doing various activities within the confines of their houses. The students also were playing shirts versus skins basketball in the middle of December when it is freezing outside which he found odd.
* While at Kentucky, his offense led the nation in passing and the entire SEC in offense. During that time Bob Stoops was running the number one SEC defense at Florida and shortly after, they decided to combine forces at Oklahoma. Styles of football will always go back and forth, and it wasn’t too long ago that Auburn did a good job of throwing the ball in the SEC. Looking at the NFL, you see that the best teams in the league tend to throw the ball more often than not. Teams like the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints are all examples of that. The reason for throwing the ball so much is that it allows you to attack space and get all your skill positions involved on the field.
* During his last few years at Tech, his defenses would be in the top three or four in the conference behind the likes of Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. They would have loved to be ahead of those teams, but everyone else in the league was behind them as well. Tech was able to beat Nebraska five out of six times that they played each other while he was there and also beat OU three out of the last five times they played under his watch. Without being decent in all aspects of the game, things like that don’t happen and you’re always looking to improve.
* He never really thought that he would have a coaching tree. He was always focused on getting the next first down instead of growing his tree, but without even realizing it many of his former assistants are now big name coaches at other schools. People like Dana Holgersen, Greg McMackin, Sonny Dykes, Ruffin McNeal and Art Briles all fall under that list. To have the opportunity to work with those guys was a real honor.
* When he coached at Oklahoma, most of the staff was pretty young. One year, they were getting ready to play A&M in Norman and were out on the field doing their pregame stretches. Meanwhile, almost the entire coaching staff was looking over their shoulder to see when RC Slocum was going to come out of the tunnel so that they could all make sure they had the chance to shake his hand. They had watched Slocum coach one great game after the next and all were chomping at the bit to meet the man.
* He talks to Kliff Kingsbury about once a week and thinks that he does a tremendous job at what he does. Kingsbury is one of the smartest guys he knows and double majored in finance and marketing while at Texas Tech. When he left college, Kingsbury was the most highly academically decorated college athlete in America. His dad was a high school coach in New Braunfels and Kingsbury learned a lot from him. When he got to Tech, he needed a quarterback that could set the stage and get things headed in the right direction and Kingsbury was just that.
* Kingsbury has always been a grinder whether it be as a player or a coach. He was so efficient in the class room and apart from getting A’s, he logged many hours in the office watching film and studying for the next game. In his offense, there are a bunch of quarterback checks at the line of scrimmage and Kingsbury always had a great knowledge of what was happening and how to combat it. Kingsbury is from the central/south Texas area and grew up watching the Aggies play and it means a lot to him to be coaching at A&M.
* He always enjoyed the enthusiasm and tradition A&M fans showed when he would play at Kyle field. Football wouldn’t be any fun without the other guy, and if you’re at Tech, A&M was one of the other guys. As a coach, you always knew where A&M stood as soon as you walked onto the field and heard the student section giving everyone their thoughts about you. If things weren’t going your way, the student section would make sure you knew it. Kyle Field is one of the greatest traditions in college football and he always was honored to play there. It was such an exciting thing to be a part of that the mentality always was, we didn’t HAVE to go play at Kyle Field, but we GET to play at Kyle Field.