STARKVILLE, Miss. – The first time Mike Leach came to a seafood and seafood restaurant called WTF, he ordered honey-gold chicken wings a certain way.
“Very crunchy,” he says to Shan Subir, owner and chef.
“Extra crunchy?” Sober said. “This is how I like my ward too!”
Since that meeting in 2020, Leach, Ex Mississippi Sober, a black single mother from the Mississippi Delta, is approached by a football coach. Their relationship developed into a friendship, and Leach transformed from a frequent customer into a confidant.
Super cooked for him and his friends at the coach house, hosted them for parties at her restaurant and drank with them late at night, as Leach loved – the stories and spirits flowed. He especially loved the Dungeness crab, lobster tails, salmon and those crispy wings.
“Best Cook in Starkville, Mississippi!” Leach shouted once in a video posted to social media.
On a day when the people of Starkville, the Mississippi community, and the college football nation remember the coach, an unknown employer in this small town reveals Leach’s story a week after his death.
Save her restaurant.
“I was heading toward the wire. I was going into debt,” Sober recalls. “It helped us stay open. I am forever grateful.”
Due to post-COVID-19 inflation and a shortage of workers, Suber was about to close the business in September when Leach learned the news, came to the restaurant one day and wrote her a check. She would like to keep the amount private, but it covered her bills and the lease for at least two months.
“We were hanging by a thread. I didn’t ask for anything.” “He did so very willingly. I don’t know why he chose me.”
Soper was among the crowd that gathered at Humphrey Coliseum on Tuesday for a memorial to celebrate the coach’s life. He died on December 13 of heart-related complications in the news that rocked the college football world.
Some industry luminaries attended the rally on the Mississippi State campus, including USC coach Lincoln Riley, Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, former Kentucky coach Hal Mom, Houston coach Dana Holgorsen and TCU coach Sonny Dykes. . Former Washington State quarterback Gardner Mincio, a Mississippi native, paid tribute to the coach, as did Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.
They remembered an eccentric, eccentric man known off the field for his fascination with life and on the field for his heavy attacking power that revolutionized football.
As the memorial opened Tuesday, a familiar and apt tune played over Humphrey Coliseum’s speakers: Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Those close to Leach describe the way he lived his life according to the song’s lyrics.
“It was really one of a kind,” Stoops told the audience. “A deep thinker. An independent thinker. Bold enough to always do it his way, no matter how unconventional.”
Mumme ran a story about the founding of the air raid crime, which took place in 1991 during a road trip to Florida with Leach. The trip ended with the two men bellying up at a Key West tavern at what became Leach’s favorite spot: Captain Tony’s Saloon.
During the memorial, a video of country singer Toby Keith playing a computer was shown. “He’s a guy I wanted to have a beer with!” Keith thrived off his friend, Leach.
The event was broadcast live on the SEC Network. That didn’t stop Minshew from throwing an expletive at a gossiping crowd – implying his former mentor and coach. He really didn’t give a damn about what people thought. It certainly wasn’t politically correct. That was it. You respect that.”
The night crawler, Leach, was famous for calling friends late and keeping them on the line after their bedtime. “Let’s hook up and call each other after midnight once in a while in Mike’s honor,” Stoops told the crowd.
Leach was an inquisitive man who was interested in a great number of subjects. From the US economy to the bears, from the Navajo to Geronimo. Gary O’Hagan, Leach’s longtime agent and good friend, often got strange calls from the coach.
“Three or four times a year he would ask me, ‘Do you think there is a Loch Ness monster? What about Bigfoot? ” O’Hagan recalls. “Mike Leach wanted to believe in those things. He wanted to believe that anything was possible. He was going to live his life as anything is possible.”
It was a gray day in Starkville. Clouds dropped showers of rain amid the cool temperatures. At the gates to Davis Wade Stadium, two folding tables held dozens of flowers and gifts in memory of the coach: a message written on a bell; An empty bottle of bourbon. Tin from Copenhagen, which was Leach’s favourite.
Behind the gates, a maroon pirate flag fluttered in the wind.
Inside the Coliseum, white flowers and pictures adorn the stage, as well as a sparkling Egg Bowl trophy, which Leach picked up in his last act as coach — a 24-22 upset of Ole Miss.
“There’s a ball game going on in heaven,” said Stoops, who named Leach offensive coordinator while he was at Oklahoma. “It’s the fourth and second on his own 40, and you know he’s going for it.”
One day before the anniversary, Soper, 38, opened up her restaurant—closed on Mondays—to a reporter. She pointed to the window walk-in where Leach ordered those crispy wings at their first meeting during the pandemic. He became such a regular that year that Suber let him into the restaurant despite COVID-19 restrictions.
The restaurant is located along Dr.
Super claims to be one of the very few black women to own a restaurant in the area. She learned to cook from her grandmother, Mattie, while growing up in Greenville, Delta. WTF opened in 2015 with a different structure – hence the name. WTF stands for Where the Food. Banners and themes are designed for sharing on social media. In fact, when it opened, it required every customer to post at least five photos of their food on social media platforms.
Its sign includes an “@” at the end of the WTF.
“Where’s the food,” she says. “When he walked in the first time, I said to Mike, ‘You found the food, Coach!'” “
He’s found a boyfriend, too. Leach gave Super his number immediately and the two began a texting relationship, which developed into a close friendship that transcended food. It even influenced his coaching decisions. She remembers her once telling him, “They’re going to take down eight guys, and you need to run the damn ball!”
In many ways, Suber Leach introduced the culture and food of Starkville. She refers to Leach as “top-shelf tequila.”
“It’s the good thing,” she laughs. “Mike came over and talked to the townspeople. He wanted to get to know the town and the people of Starkville.”
Suber and Leach grew close despite their different political backgrounds. The 38-year-old Super Democrat, while the 61-year-old Leach supported former President Donald Trump. Suber says she does not allow political ideals to influence her personal relationships.
Nor is Leach. “He had time for anyone, anytime,” Stoops said during the ceremony.
However, Leach developed a perception due to his brash nature, friendship with Trump and loose words, especially on social media.
In the spring of 2020, Coach came under fire for posting a meme on Twitter depicting a woman knitting a noose. Subir asked him about it. “It was a joke,” she says.
“Well, he’s a Trump supporter. It’s his choice. Everyone has a choice,” she says. “It doesn’t mean he’s a bad person. We are associated with food. I don’t give a damn what people think. Excuse my French!”
In September, when word reached Leach that Sober planned to shut down WTF, he wrote her this check. He never asked to be repaid.
Today, the restaurant is doing well, but it still struggles. Due to business issues, they are only open four days a week compared to six. It has made about $200,000 in sales this year. Last year, she made $750,000.
Super didn’t know that the lich was sick. She regularly served huge meals at his house. In fact, she was cooking for Leach and her friends as recently as a month ago. She and assistant Gigi Wells served lamb chops, salmon, lobster tails, and stuffed shrimp.
He did not appear ill and did not say anything. Super says he was fighting it internally. “I didn’t think Mike was going to die. It’s still unbelievable.”
However, he knew many people in Mississippi. The coach has been suffering from pneumonia-like conditions for most of the season. It was so severe that the staff suggested he take a vacation. Refusal.
After the season, he made at least one trip to Houston to visit doctors, those close to him said. But no one expected what happened on December 11, when paramedics were called to his home with heart and breathing problems. Leach was later flown to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where he died a day later.
“We were just with this guy planning to cook Christmas dinner!” Wells says. “We are shocked.”
In the eyes of history, Leach will be most often remembered as the man who spread the air raid attack throughout the sport, who taught some of the best quarterbacks and led the outbacks to big wins. Here in Starkville, he helped revive the Mississippi State offense and bring excitement to Wade Davis Stadium.
But about two miles from campus, tucked in a more forgotten part of this small town, is a restaurant where its legacy lives on with its gold-and-honey chicken wings.
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