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STARKVILLE, Mississippi – One of the brightest branches of the Mike Leach coaching tree told one of the best stories at Leach’s memorial on Tuesday.
Lincoln Riley, fresh off turning a 4-8 USC team into an 11-2 College Football Playoff contender in the 2022 season, flew halfway across the country to bid his friend and mentor goodbye on the day before national signing day.
Riley, one of the hottest coaches in the country at age 39, was a 25-year-old wide receiver coach at Texas Tech under Leach in 2008. The two were headed back to the hotel the night before the Texas game in Lubbock. Leach was driving. Riley answered Leach’s cellular phone for him.
It was actor Matthew McConaughey, a Texas alum and Uvalde, Texas, native who had become fast friends with Leach.
Leach took the phone.
“Then he puts on his blinker like he’s going to get in the right lane,” Riley said. “I look in the sideview mirror, and there is a big truck right on us in that lane. I’m thinking, ‘Surely, he sees that truck.'”
He didn’t and attempted to get in the right lane.
A Matthew McConaughey Call Nearly Coincided With A Truck
“The guy in the truck swerves and honks, and he’s yelling at Mike,” Riley said.
But Leach was too busy talking to McConaughey to know he almost got sacked.
“The guy’s cussing us telling us we’re No. 1,” Riley said. “But Mike’s still on the phone. Then the guy gets on the other side of us and passes us. He rolls down the window. He’s honking. He’s yelling and cussing and flipping us off.”
Finally, Leach notices him and turns away from the phone.
“Oh, hey, Mike Leach, good to see you,” he yelled to the driver.
Just another adoring fan. And he went back to his conversation with McConaughey.
Leach was not too distracted come kickoff. No. 6 Texas Tech upset No. 1 Texas, 39-33, handing McConaughey’s Longhorns their only loss in a 12-1 season. The Red Raiders finished 11-2 as Leach drove Tech to its first 11-win season since 1973.
Mike Leach Impacted Lives, Like Lincoln Riley’s
Riley became an offensive coordinator at East Carolina from 2010-14 before landing the same job at Oklahoma under coach Bob Stoops. It was Stoops who hired Leach as offensive coordinator in 1999 from Kentucky and further launched his career. Riley then replaced Stoops in 2017 and took the Sooners to the College Football Playoff three times before getting the USC job after the 2021 season.
The Trojans signed 24 players on Wednesday and were ranked No. 8 in the nation for its 2022-23 class by 247 Sports. No. 10 USC plays No. 16 Tulane (11-2) in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2 (1 p.m., ESPN2). Riley has been contending for national coach of the year honors.
“It’s amazing how he can change one person’s life,” Riley said of Leach. “Rest in peace, my friend.”