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Al Golden upholding the legacy: Mario Cristobal hiring is a hit with JJ, former Miami Hurricanes

UM Hurricanes football coach Al Golden always reminds his players to "uphold the legacy.''

Al is doing a pretty good job of it himself.

Bringing in Mario Cristobal as an assistant coach and associate head coach makes him the third former Hurricanes player to serve as one of the main assistants.

The others, of course, are linebackers coach Micheal Barrow and offensive line coach Art Kehoe.

Former UM players are thrilled. I spoke to a couple of them who were coached by Mario when he was a graduate assistant. Both were on the offensive line and started on the 2001 national championship team -- right tackle Joaquin Gonzalez and right guard Martin Bibla.

"I think Mario is a great hire because of his personality and attitude,'' Gonzalez told me. "He’s a winner. I was shocked when FIU let him go. It will be hard to find anybody that is filled with more passion to win. He’s ready to rock ‘n roll… that’s why he’s so good at recruiting.

 "If Mario has to drive 18 straight hours to talk to a recruit, you bet your ass he’ll do it. He won’t wait for the plane. His intensity to work and be a winner is second to none. 

 "When he was a graduate assistant, Mario would be breaking down film from two years prior, and he’d stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning doing it. He really wanted to win. You Have to admire a guy who’s willing to work that hard. If you’re a lazy person, he’s not for you.

"I was never the biggest, the strongest or the fastest,'' concluded Gonzalez, "but I really worked my ass off to get where I got to at UM, in the pros, my whole career, and Mario did it the exact same way.''

Also happy to hear the news: former guard Bibla.

    “That’s outstanding,’’ said Bibla, now a state trooper in Pennsylvania. “He’s a phenomenal guy. I’d go to bat for him no matter what. Art Kehoe was my coach, but if I couldn’t get a hold of Art I had total confidence in Mario. He’s a wealth of knowledge.’’

    Bibla said Cristobal goes out of his way to help players progress.

    “He’ll bend over backwards to help players better themselves,’’ Bibla said. “He puts a different spin on things. It seems like he’s up on coaching techniques and whatever you’re doing that’s relevant to the game.

    “He evolves with the game.

    “If I was 17 again and trying to find a college to play ball at, I’d look at him as a good father figure. And if I was the father, I’d trust him to cultivate my son into not only a good football player but an outstanding person.’’

     Former UM coach Jimmy Johnson, who had Mario for one year, told me he first met Cristobal in his Miami home when he was recruiting his older brother Luis – a guard at UM. “Not only will he help the coaching and enthusiasm,’’ Johnson said of Cristobal, “he’ll be an outstanding recruiter as well.

    “He’ll do a great job. I’m really happy [coach] Al [Golden] got him.’’