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Washington State’s Mike Leach, Gardner Minshew share affinity for late movie star Burt Reynolds

November 13, 2018

PULLMAN – Mike Leach sees a striking resemblence between his starting quarterback and the late actor who starred in Gunsmoke, The Longest Yard and Smokey and the Bandit.

Gardner Minshew and Burt Reynolds do share a mustache and Leach paid tribute to the American TV/movie star on Twitter Sunday night, sharing a video from an ESPN postgame interview that showed the Washington State QB taping a fake mustache to his coach’s face after the Cougars beat Colorado 31-7 Saturday in Boulder.

“I’d like to use this opportunity to honor a true American legend, Mr. Burt Reynolds. RIP Burt, thanks for everything,” Leach tweeted.

During Monday’s news conference in Pullman, Leach said of Minshew, “I do think his face carries a mustache well” and also noted “there is kind of a Smokey and Bandit vibe with the whole thing.”

Leach said his transfer quarterback may not be familiar with Reynolds and his filmography – “it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he doesn’t,” the coach said – unaware Minshew had actually cited the actor as a “personal icon” when he guest appeared on the Jim Rome Show two weeks ago, and also stated his affinity for Reynolds’ hit film, Smokey and the Bandit.

“Ultimately, the greatest of all time of mustaches is my personal icon, Burt Reynolds,” Minshew told Rome. “Rest in peace. He is the gold standard when it comes to mustaches.”

Rome continued to quiz Minshew about his fandom, asking the quarterback to list his favorite Reynolds movies.

“Well, the one movie that sticks out to me is Smokey and the Bandit,” Minshew said. “I had it on VHS, I remember watching it as young as I can remember. I’ve probably seen that – I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen it. Just always wanted to be the bandit in the dang Trans Am. That always just got me fired up. He’s a renegade.”

“What a roll, him and Jerry Reed taking down to Texarkana,” Minshew said. “Just good times, man.”

Minshew probably doesn’t know Leach had a face-to-face encounter with Reynolds while he was coaching at Valdosta State in the 1990s. Reynolds’ godson played for Leach and the Blazers, who used to hold their spring scrimmages in Tallahassee, Florida, because a number of Florida State coaches also had sons playing for Valdosta. Reynolds had a house in Tallahassee and occasionally came out to watch the Blazers practice.

“Of course all the ladies wanted to meet him and everything,” Leach said. “And in the midst of it, we’re down there trying to have a spring scrimmage. I don’t know him or anything.”

The Cougars watch movies as a team on Friday night before Saturday games. Perhaps a Reynolds flick will be next on the queue.

“There’s a lot of mustaches around here and why is Gardner’s taken hold in the fashion it has? It is a little curious to me, but part of it, I do think his face carries a mustache well,” Leach said. “Some of it’s a little generational, but growing up you always heard about Burt Reynolds’ mustache. You know?”

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