Shortly Before His Death, Mike Leach Saved A Struggling Starkville Restaurant

“I didn’t ask for anything. He willingly did that. I don’t know why he chose me.”

Mike Leach
Photo:

The Washington Post/Getty Images

Amongst the countless individuals Mike Leach impacted throughout his incredible 61 years of life is a Black single mom from the Mississippi Delta named Shan Suber. 

Leach ate at WTF, Suber’s seafood and soul restaurant in Starkville, for the first time in 2020, and was wowed by the honey gold chicken wings (extra crispy). The hole-in-the-wall quickly became Leach’s favorite spot in town, and he spread the gospel of Suber’s honey gold sauce, lobster tail, and Dungeness crab every chance he got.  

The popular Mississippi State football coach and the humble restaurant owner became fast friends. A week after Leach died from complications related to a heart condition, Suber spoke with Sports Illustrated about how he went from frequent client to confidant, and how one of his last acts changed her life.   

In the months and years that followed their first meeting, Suber cooked for Leach at his home, hosted him and his friends for parties at her restaurant, and joined them for late nights of storytelling over drinks.

But by September 2022, Suber and WTF were in trouble. She told Sports Illustrated that the combination of post-COVID-19 inflation and a lack of workers had her on the cusp of closing the business. She said that when Leach heard the news, he came to the restaurant and wrote her a check big enough to cover her bills and lease for a few months. 

“I was down to the wire. I was going into debt,” Suber recalled. “He helped us stay open. I’m forever grateful.” 

“We were hanging on by a thread. I didn’t ask for anything,” she explained. “He willingly did that. I don’t know why he chose me.”

Suber said she had no idea Leach was sick. In fact, she cooked for him at his house just a month ago.

“He never showed any sickness or said anything. He was battling it internally,” she told the publication. “I didn’t think Mike was going to die. It’s still unbelievable.”

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