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Miss. St. honors late coach Mike Leach at ReliaQuest Bowl

Jan 2, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; a logo for former Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach was painted on the field for the 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl with Illinois Fighting Illini and Mississippi State Bulldogs at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State will wear specially designed helmets in Monday’s ReliaQuest Bowl in tribute to their late head coach, Mike Leach.

Leach died Dec. 12 from a heart complication at age 61. No. 22 Mississippi State (8-4) will meet Illinois (8-4) in the bowl game at Tampa, Fla.

In tribute to Leach, who had an affinity for pirates and lived by the motto “swing your sword,” the Bulldogs will wear a white sticker on the side of their maroon helmets that shows a pirate logo with interlocking swords and the initials “ML.” The university unveiled the helmets on Monday before the game.

The grounds crew at Raymond James Stadium, which hosted the game Sunday between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers, turned around the field for the bowl game and included the word MIKE, with a cowbell replacing the letter I.

In other tributes, the trademark pirate ship at the stadium has been outfitted with a floral arrangement and a photo of Leach. The Illini also will be wearing a helmet decal to honor the coach.

–Field Level Media