After 16 seasons of living his dream from city to city as a football player for the National Football League, Mike Leach is finally ready to call Williamsburg home.
Leach, a College of William & Mary alumnus, retired last year from the NFL. He most recently played as a long snapper for the Arizona Cardinals, who made it all the way to the National Football Conference Championship game last season. He decided to leave football behind due in part to ongoing injuries. In addition to playing for the Cardinals, Leach was also a player for the Tennessee Titans, the Chicago Bears, and the Denver Broncos.
Leach started playing the sport in high school in New Jersey. He attended Boston University on a scholarship, but later transferred to William & Mary after BU cut its football program. He was a tight end and punter for the Tribe.
“I thought it was a very well-run, well-organized program, and it was a good fit for me,” Leach said of his time at William & Mary. “The coach expected the best of his players both on the field and in the classroom.”
In the spring of 2000, Leach received a phone call from the Titans about signing as a free agent.
“When my roommate first told me they called, I thought he was kidding,” Leach said.
After graduation, Leach trekked to Tennessee for the Titans’ summer training camp. He started out as a tight end and punter until the special teams coach saw his potential as a long snapper.
“It was just something I could do naturally,” Leach said.
He stayed with the Titans for two seasons.
“It was very exciting, the realization that what I dreamed about as a kid had become a reality,” Leach said. “Playing for large crowds was all new to me, but I realized that I couldn’t be intimidated. I just had to go out and play, and do my job.”
Leach later signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bears, but was released during training camp. He signed with the Denver Broncos in 2002, and played as a long snapper with that team for seven years before joining the Arizona Cardinals in 2009.
Leach never made it to the Super Bowl during his time with the NFL, but he did come close twice, once as a Bronco, and then last year with the Cardinals, who ultimately lost to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship game.
“We had a great team, and we had a great run, and those are some memories that I will have forever,” Leach said. “I’ve had some great teammates, and I’ve made some life-long friends with players, coaches and their families.”
Leach played 235 games during his tenure with the NFL, 216 of which were played consecutively. He remains humbled by his experience.
“I’ve been fortunate to play with some great teams in some great cities,” he said. “I just wanted a shot at playing, and fortunately they gave it to me. Sixteen years is a long time in the NFL. It was nice to go out on my own terms.”
Leach returned to Williamsburg in June with his wife, Julie, and their two children. The place holds special meaning to Leach and his wife. The pair met at the Green Leafe Café when they were both students at William & Mary. Julie was a basketball player for the Tribe.
“We love it here in Williamsburg,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place.”
Leach was inducted into the William & Mary Athletics’ Hall of Fame a few years ago.
“That was a great honor, and something I am real proud of,” he said.
While he continues to recover from his football injuries, Leach and his wife have been busy building their company, Potty Pals, a comprehensive potty training system for parents.
“I’ve learned a lot developing the idea,” he said. “It’s been rewarding.”
So has being back in Williamsburg. Leach and his family recently attended the Tribe homecoming football game. It was the first time he had been back for homecoming since graduating in 2000.
“It is nice to be back,” Leach said. “William & Mary is a special place, and I hope to be a part of it for years to come.”
Read more profiles of local residents in WYDaily’s new section In Our Hometown.