Bob Stoops came to Starkville on Tuesday to pay tribute to late Mississippi State coach Mike Leach and send a message to his players.

Stoops wanted them to know how much he admired their resilience and commitment in wanting to honor their coach by playing in the ReliaQuest Bowl against Illinois on Jan. 2.

Stoops told the Bulldogs players at Tuesday’s public memorial just how happy and proud Leach would be that they’re determined to still play against the Illini just a few weeks after Leach passed away at 61.

Stoops was among the many members of the college football world who descended on Starkville to talk about what Leach meant to the sport of college football.

Leach passed away on Dec. 12 after complications from a heart condition and a week later at Humphrey Coliseum the legendary offensive architect who changed the way college football was played was being honored by Stoops and many others he affected during his career.

Current Bulldogs star quarterback Will Rogers and linebacker Nathaniel Watson were scheduled to speak on Tuesday, as were SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and Mississippi State president Mark Keenum.

For about a decade, Leach and Stoops were intense competitors in the Big 12 when Stoops was at Oklahoma and Leach coached at Texas Tech.

Current USC head coach Lincoln Riley, who coached under Stoops and Leach, also was scheduled to speak on Tuesday, along with former Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew, who played for Leach when he was at the Pac-12 school.