The City of Tampa holds a pirate festival every January in Gasparilla, around which much of the region builds an entire culture. But the season kicks off a bit earlier this year with the Mississippi State Bulldogs honoring their recently-passed head coach Mike Leach by wearing a helmet with the Jolly Roger on it for their ReliaQuest Bowl matchup with the Illinois Fighting Illini on Monday at Raymond James Stadium.
Bulldogs will be wearing a pirate flag on the helmet in honor of Mike Leach today. pic.twitter.com/HCAGcdy9Kp— Robbie Faulk (@robbiefaulk247) January 2, 2023
Leach was a known lover of all things pirate, and even titled his autobiography written with Bruce Feldman Swing Your Sword. He would bring a sword from Blackbeard to team meetings to motivate players, and his embrace of the culture was one reason he loved his home in Key West so much. It should be an emotional game for everyone today, but this is the perfect touch to honor the pioneering coach whose offense revolutionized college football.
The stadium in which the game will be played could not be more perfect as well, with a full pirate ship overlooking today’s proceedings in the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You can see the helmets and all tributes to Leach starting at 12 p.m. today, with the game airing on ESPN2.