MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Tragedy and shock are gripping the sports world following the death of Mississippi State’s head football coach.

The university said 61-year-old Mike Leach passed away Monday night following complications from a heart condition. Earlier this year, he fell ill with pneumonia but those who worked with him thought he was improving. 

Leach was in his third year as the university’s head coach.

Just hours before he initially fell ill, Jason Crowder took a picture with the coach at a small holiday gathering. Crowder, who works for the Mississippi State Radio Network, says Leach stopped by the holiday party with Mississippi State media. 

Mississippi State head football coach Mike Leach with Mississippi State Radio Network host Jason Crowder at a holiday party with Mississippi State media. (Photo courtesy: Jason Crowder)

“This was the first I had actually had that, no cameras, no microphone, nobody around besides just us and his son around talking and it reiterates to what everyone says that knew Mike Leach and knew him well or even just had a brief encounter like I did that night, was that he was very genuine, down to Earth, not like some people who had the prestige he had,” he said.

Leach is known for his successes on the field but also for his witty news conferences and interviews. Tributes from around the country are coming in for coach Mike Leach after his passing.

Crowder said Leach made a big impact at the school in many ways. 

“Adding Mike Leach also added to Mississippi State’s relevance. For the fact that they have a national name coach,” he said. “Memphis is a heavy recruiting ground for Mississippi State and also the rival Ole Miss and so you’re battling for that talent and I think Mike Leach being here and playing in the Liberty Bowl last year even though the game did not go state’s way I thought it was really huge for recruiting in that area and not just for athletes but for fandom too.”

Now, the bulldog community comes together to remember his legacy of what he did not just for the university but college football.

“We are truly a family and we’re all going to grieve as a family,” Crowder said.

The Memphis Maroon Club, the local alumni chapter, said in a statement:

“The Memphis Maroon Club, along with the rest of the Bulldog family, is shocked and saddened at the loss of Mike Leach. Although he was only our coach for a short time, he made a lasting impact on our program and college football as a whole. We were fortunate enough to have him attend our 2021 Road Dawgs event and we will forever be thankful for that time together. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sharon, their kids and grandkids along with the rest of the Bulldog family.”