Mike Leach's Key To Football Success: Geronimo

Jul 08, 2014 8:11 AM EST

Some examples of true leadership and heroism go unnoticed, ecspecially over time.  

One is Geronimo – a former leader of the Bedonkohe Apache tribe, who fought against Mexico and America to further expansion of Apache tribal lands.   Geronimo's story began when his life drastically changed on March 6, 1851, when nearly 400 Mexican soldiers attacked a town inwhich his wife, children and mother were all killed. Losing his family led Geronimo to become a leader for the rest of his life.  

Geronimo had to experience finding his aged mother, young wife and three small children slain. He then saw warriors arranging for council and took his place as a warrior himself.   After losing everything, Geronimo became a leader – a leader of the Apache tribe.  

How does this translate into the college football world? Washington State head coach Mike Leach sees Geronimo as a hero and told me how the the Apache leader impacted his life.

"I've been reading about Geronimo since I was a kid," Leach told Football.com. "My mom took me to the library and told me I could pick out any book I could find. I picked out a book on Geronimo, a big book that a kid should not force a mom to read to a kid, but ever since then I've been hooked on Geronimo."  

Geronimo was an underdog and faced enemies that were better armed, stronger in numbers and better equiped. But he guided his tribe by facing odds, captivating United States and Mexican governments and earning respect.   Sound familiar?  

Leach has taken on the underdog role since being an offensive coordinator at Kentucky. He didn't have the best resources, players and odds in his favor – but he made opponents respect him while coaching at Kentucky, Texas Tech and now Washington State.   

The Apache icon had such an impact on Leach, he released a book about Geronimo and his leadership strategies in May.

He made all three football programs better and his coaching traits stem from what Geronimo had to face during his time. "Geronimo and his Apache warriors were able to accomplish things that aren't even attempted today," Leach said. "Traveling across desert land, finding ways to eat, finding ways to treat their feet and finding ways to survive – along with the American army chasing them, while the Mexicans were chasing them from the south.  

"He (Geronimo) was just a really courageous individual that maximized his potential. I think from any walks of life, there are lessons to be drawn from him."   Leach has been victorious on the gridiron, 93 times, nearly twice as many as his 59 defeats – which speaks volumes since he taken over programs that were not accustomed to winning. Leach takes his coaching approach like Geronimo, which has allowed him to sustain success in the highly competitive profession.  

"All through my coaching career, I've always had a picture of Geronimo hanging over my desk because he always personified the ultimate warrior," Leach said. "He was a person that made all the sacrifices to develop his skills and was determined enough to never surrender.  

"Like anybody that has a journey, you draw from your triumphs and your mistakes," Leach concluded.