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‘Air Raid’ originator Archie Cooley, Jerry Rice’s coach and HBCU legend, dies

Delta Devils’ playcaller mourned in HBCU world
Football (Photo credit: / Sergey Nivens)

Archie “Gunslinger” Cooley has died at the age of 84.

The HBCU football legend was known as an innovative playcaller whose offense helped spotlight Jerry Rice as a star before getting on the NFL radar and becoming arguably the greatest receiver ever.

“It is with heavy hearts that we share legendary Coach Archie ‘Gunslinger’ Cooley Jr. has passed away, his family announced today, Thursday, April 18, 2024,” Mississippi Valley State University released in a social media statement. “The MVSU Family sends our condolences to the Cooley Family. Funeral arrangements will be shared at a later time.”

Cooley coached at four HBCUs over the course of 19 seasons as a head coach. His career record was 83-78-5. As a player, he starred at Jackson State, playing both offense and defense in the early 1960s. He began his SWAC head coaching career at MVSU in 1980.

There, he ran a five-wide receiver, no-huddle offense favoring a heavy pass game. This was nine years before Mike Leach, known for his “air raid” offense on the Power 5 level, became a head coach for the first time with the Pori Bears in Finland.

Cooley’s offense at MVSU was known as “The Satellite Express,” headlined by Rice and quarterback Willie “Satellite” Totten. The 1984 team averaged an FCS (formerly Division I-AA) record of 60.9 points per game.

He was born in Sumrall, Mississippi, and was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame in 2007.

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