LUBBOCK, Texas – The college football world lost a national icon on Monday night when Mike Leach passed away due to heart complications.

“He was charismatic, he was fun to be around, he was quirky, he was silly, he was a genius,” said Brian Duncan, a former Texas Tech University (TTU) player under Leach. “He was all of these things balled up into something you wanted to be a part of.”

A head coach for 21 seasons with stops in Starkville, MS, Pullman, WA, and right here in Lubbock, Texas.

“It’s just still surreal and hard to understand and accept, but clearly, when you look at social media and the calls and emails and the texts that I’ve been receiving, obviously there’s a lot of love out there for the pirate and our former coach,” said Curt Langford, president and CEO of the Texas Tech Alumni Association.

Leach is the winningest coach in TTU history, finishing 84-43 overall during his 10 seasons leading the Red Raiders. Langford remembers Leach’s TTU debut at a meeting back in 2000.

“He was rather eccentric, he was different,” Langford said. “I remember walking away from that meeting going, ‘Oh my God, what do we have,’ but people fell in love with him very, very quickly.”

A breakthrough season in 2008 led to the creation of the “Swing your sword” mantra. Duncan remembers a team meeting where Leach brought a sword in.

“He came into the meeting with a sword and he started waving around and he was saying, ‘some of you guys think that you know, everything, but some of you guys don’t even know how to hold a sword,’” Duncan said. “The message was, he doesn’t care who you are, he doesn’t care where you come from, and we’re a family. We’re going to win and we’re going to lose together. The biggest thing is, we all have to be together. We’ve got to thrive and we’ve got to win and fight together, and we’ve got to conquer together.”

Langford said even though Leach hasn’t been in the Hub City for over a decade, he will always be a part of Red Raider nation.

“Here at the alumni association, we have a hashtag, #OneOfUs, and in this case, he’ll be forever one of us,” Langford said. “There’s no doubt he’s part of the legacy of Texas Tech football.” 

Coach Mike Leach with former Texas Tech linebacker Brian Duncan.

Duncan said he and many others will never forget “The Pirate.”

“If you can leave a positive legacy that people want to be a part of, even when you’re gone, that’s the type of legacy that you definitely want to leave,” Duncan said. “I believe Mike Leach left that legacy. He was a great guy, a great coach and he was definitely my coach.”