How K.J. Costello found 'third wind' under Mike Leach at Mississippi State
STARKVILLE – The good vibes keep coming.
Mississippi State senior quarterback K.J. Costello said Tuesday’s practice was “closer to a perfect practice” than last Tuesday’s. At the time, Costello said last Tuesday's practice was his best since coming to Mississippi State. He proceeded to torch then-No. 5 LSU for 623 passing yards and five touchdowns a few days later.
Uh oh, Arkansas.
Costello is comfortable in coach Mike Leach’s offense. That much was evident in his record-setting debut. But comfort was something he sought after for months since he started his final game at Stanford on Nov. 9, 2019. He decided to follow Leach to Mississippi State in February, but even then he wasn’t comfortable.
He could hardly throw a football because of a lingering thumb injury, after all.
“I literally was not throwing the ball,” Costello said. “I didn’t know if I was going to play, didn’t really know if I wanted to play in terms of like going out each and every day. I was rehabbing harder than anyone, I think, in the country. Two to three times a day. Literally 8, 12, 4 o’clock – every single day.”
Yet here he is now, setting records quarterbacks Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel and even Joe Burrow didn’t during their Heisman Trophy seasons in the SEC. In fact, that trio didn’t come close to Costello’s 623 yards. Burrow had the most of that bunch in one game with 493.
Costello’s journey from standing on the sideline at Stanford to slinging the ball around as good as anyone in SEC history was a long, tedious one. Even when he signed with Mississippi State, he didn’t know what the future held for him on a football field.
“I still had a ton of uncertainty at that time,” Costello said.
It has already paid off for him in maroon and white, though, and he still has nine games to make his stay in Starkville even better. He believes he can do just that because he has found the comfort he searched for – both physically and mentally.
Costello compared Leach to his high school coach Harry Welsh. Welsh won nine California Interscholastic Federation – Southern Section (CIF-SS) Championships and three state championships in his storied high school coaching career.
Costello said Leach and Welsh both live by a simple mindset that still makes all the difference: “You’re either selling out or you’re better off doing something else.” Costello found his desire to be his best during every rep under Leach’s guidance.
"I love coach Leach," Costello said. "Every time he starts every team meeting he says a lot of the same things, but it ends up really resonating over time. So we can't lose that edge."
Costello feels as cozy as he did in high school when he set his school's passing record with 8,222 yards. He surged past former NFL gunslinger Carson Palmer on the way to the all-time mark. He already surged past Dak Prescott's single-game Mississippi State mark and could be on his way to passing Prescott's single-season standard, even in a shortened 10-game season.
The good vibes keep coming.
"Once I got here, I found probably a third wind," Costello said. "There was a couple times when I was getting worn out in the rehab process and by the time I got here, Leach’s mentality kind of gave me a new wind. I like that old-school kind of stuff."