When Mike Leach arrived at Mississippi State in 2020, he had to name captains. Or with Leach, it was just 1 person who held that title. So that first offseason in Starkville, Leach met with senior linebacker Erroll Thompson, who was named a captain the previous year.

Leach had good news for Thompson — he was again being named captain. Even more impactful to Thompson was what his new coach told him about how he previously selected that spot.

“He told me it didn’t matter if it was a walk-on or a starter. The smallest guy was the guy he picked,” Thompson told SDS on Tuesday. “I think it had something to do with the winner on ‘The Price is Right.’”

More context? Yeah, that’s always needed with a Leach story.

When Leach was at Washington State, running back Jamal Morrow went on the gameshow “The Price is Right.” Even better, he got all the way to the Showcase Showdown and nearly won. Leach noticed. Fast forward to 2016. Leach decided to name Morrow the team captain in hopes that he’d win the coin toss. It worked. With Morrow as captain, Washington State was on the winning side of the coin toss 23 times in 35 games.

Leach went against that logic when he named Thompson captain — he never went on “The Price is Right” and was merely a respected multi-year senior starter — but he kept that same energy about the importance of the coin toss. So Leach and Thompson would talk 5-10 minutes before a game and discuss the plan of attack for the coin toss and the subsequent decision. Leach wanted the ball, Thompson wanted to kick it away. “He always won it,” Thompson said. It wasn’t until Thompson won 2 coin tosses in a row to set the wheels in motion for an MSU winning streak that Leach finally relinquished the kickoff/receive decision.

And that folks, is just a small sliver of the Mike Leach experience.

Playing for the late coach was, like Leach himself, 1 of 1. Whether you were Morrow or you were Tim Couch, playing for Leach came with more adventure than any other coach.

For Couch, that Leach introduction was unforgettable. He got talked into staying at Kentucky instead of transferring to Tennessee because of incoming Valdosta coaches Hal Mumme and Leach. The Air Raid wasn’t part of the college football vernacular in the late-90s, and frankly, it wasn’t even part of that first conversation that an eager Couch had with his new offensive coordinator.

“The first time I met him, (Leach) was talking everything except football,” Couch told SDS on Tuesday. “He wanted to talk about pirates, wars and all this history stuff. I’m just like, ‘Man, I just wanna learn the offense. I just wanna get a playbook and get goin.’ He was an interesting guy but you learn pretty quickly how intelligent he is and how smart he is about putting guys in position to make plays.”

Couch did eventually learn the “playbook” — the original Mumme/Leach version of the Air Raid was taught to him on a few Hooters’ napkins by then-UK assistant and current Samford coach Chris Hatcher — and he went on to rewrite the record books en route to becoming the No. 1 pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

While skeptics criticized the high-volume passing attack and claimed it could never work in the SEC, Couch bought in. He studied the 10-15 plays and all the formations that Kentucky could operate out of. A 30-something offensive coordinator who went to law school instead of playing college football sold the rocket-armed quarterback.

“It was a little different at first,” Couch said. “But then you understood how much knowledge he had for the game and his passion for coaching, being around players trying to get the best out of them … that went out the window pretty quick. You could just tell he was a brilliant guy. He and Hal just had so much confidence in the Air Raid offense that they made you believe in it.

“Guys really didn’t care about (his lack of playing experience) once they got to know him.”

Leach was many things to many players he coached. To all of them, he was blunt.

“With Mike, you definitely had to have thick skin. If you didn’t wanna hear the truth, you didn’t wanna be around Mike,” Couch said. “He was not afraid to yell at guys, but he also had a way of doing it where you still had a lot of respect for him.”

“He’s stern with what he was saying, but it’s also like a mob boss,” Thompson said. “Whatever he says is serious and you better take it seriously whether he’s yelling or not.”

One time at MSU, the offensive line was having a rough practice. Leach ordered the entire group to head to the sandpit, which became known as “Leach Beach.” Leach had the MSU offensive line, in full pads, roll around in the sand and then return to practice.

Leach’s practice methods were atypical, to say the least. He famously wasn’t known for showing up at the team facility at the crack of dawn. It was the opposite. Staff meetings were “late as hell. One a.m., 10:30 … whenever Coach Leach wants to do it. Coach Leach was a night person,” Thompson said.

“Midnight Maneuvers” at Washington State were workouts that went from roughly 10 p.m. to midnight. Hence, the name. MSU got the dialed back version of that with workouts that went from 6 or 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. On Sundays during the season, MSU players would arrive at the facility around noon and go through a full day’s worth of workouts, film study and practice that wouldn’t have them out the door until 10 p.m.

Leach ran a tight ship (pirate pun intended). His quarterbacks were tasked with understanding coverages at the line of scrimmage. When the “60 Minutes” crew did a story on Leach’s Texas Tech during the 2008 season, Graham Harrell did an entire 3-minute breakdown of how he read the defense on a typical passing play in practice. In real time, Harrell got about 2 seconds to process that.

At the same time, Leach’s methods were whimsical. At Kentucky, the Mumme/Leach pregame music vibe was Jimmy Buffett. Leach would bust chops and keep it light during film sessions. To say that Leach was a free spirit would be an understatement.

When Texas Tech’s starting kicker was struggling with extra points during the 2008 season, the Red Raiders had a halftime field goal contest. Make a kick from the 20-yard line, get a few months of free rent from Lynnwood Townhomes. A fan named Matt Williams stepped up and calmly drilled the kick. Leach had an equipment manager track Williams down. Once they found out he was a former high school kicker who still had eligibility, he was on the team. Williams immediately took over extra point duties and eventually, he became a multi-year starting kicker for Leach, who fittingly renamed him “Ed Lynnwood.”

(“Ed” was just a solid first name that Leach liked. Also, “Ed Lynnwood” was a much more unique name than “Matt Williams.”)

There are countless stories of Leach going to the beat of his own drum. To call him a “disciplinarian coach” would probably be a bit much — Thompson said he couldn’t recall an instance of Leach truly yelling at MSU — and calling him a “players coach” probably wouldn’t fit the bill, either.

Leach could offend people in a postgame press conference by claiming players were being lazy and that they just wanted to “sit behind a shade tree, eat a fish sandwich and drink a lemonade with their fat little girlfriend.” Leach could also offer words of encouragement over the phone to a young, struggling NFL player like Couch.

On the field, Leach’s track record will speak for itself. He had 13 seasons with 8-plus wins at Texas Tech, Washington State and MSU. From Couch to Harrell to Gardner Minshew to Will Rogers, the amount of quarterbacks Leach influenced is second to none. The Air Raid principles Leach and Mumme ushered into the sport are now being mastered across the country at places like USC, TCU, Tennessee and even in the NFL ranks.

Thompson called Leach “a legend” before he ever stepped foot on MSU’s campus. That opinion should be unanimous.

Even Ed Lynnwood can agree with that.