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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Steven Johnson

TCU will honor Mike Leach during Fiesta Bowl

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — What will be on the mind of TCU coach Sonny Dykes in the hours leading up to the Fiesta Bowl College Football Playoff battle with Michigan?

Reflections of a wild yet successful season? Thoughts about whether or not he and the staff have done enough to prepare the Horned Frogs?

Maybe. There’s one person who will certainly be on his mind.

“Tomorrow will be a bit of a reflection for me, thinking about my mentor, Mike Leach, passing,” Dykes said Friday. “I think that’s going to be a big part of my feelings pregame tomorrow and just the impact Mike had on my life and really college football in general.”

One of the godfathers of the air raid offense, Leach died suddenly on Dec. 12. Mississippi State said the cause of death was complications due to a heart condition.

Leach’s passing rocked college sports and Dykes personally. They were on the same staff at Kentucky in the late 1990s and then Dykes joined Leach’s staff in Lubbock as a wide receivers coach and then offensive coordinator.

Dykes made it clear that he wouldn’t be in this position without the influence of Leach, and the Horned Frogs will honor his mentor on the field.

“We’re gonna wear a helmet sticker in remembrance of Coach Leach with a pirate flag,” Dykes said. “He was a big impact on me and football in general.”

Dykes saw up close how Leach’s quirkiness and intelligence would eventually change offense in the sport. The spread offense and other variations of the air raid are now the most common offensive schemes in college football and we’re even beginning to see those concepts translate to the NFL.

It’s funny to think about how most of the public initially viewed Leach’s offenses as gimmicky, but it was truly progressive. He also played a vital role in molding some of the best minds in the game like Dykes, USC coach Lincoln Riley, Baylor’s Dave Aranda and Tennessee’s Josh Heupel.

If there is a heaven and Leach finds the time to look down and watch the Horned Frogs battle for the opportunity to play in the national championship game, Dykes wants him to know that all the love and lessons he received from Leach are still appreciated.

“I wouldn’t be here without his guidance and mentorship,” Dykes said. “He was just an original guy that did things his way. He was an outside the box thinker and I was really blessed and fortunate to have a chance to work with him.”

As TCU prepares to face an old school, smashmouth type of offense from Michigan it’s fitting that the offensive style that many believed could never win at a high level just might be the reason the Horned Frogs can pull off the upset of the Wolverines.

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