New University of Miami football coach and former Hurricane Mario Cristobal was “fired up’’ Tuesday at his introductory news conference.
And that was after 2 1/2 hours of sleep Monday night and no sleep on Sunday, admitted his beaming wife, Jessica, in tow with sons Mario Mateo, 12, Rocco, 10, and a bunch of family members. The coach said his ailing mom Clara “is close by in the hospital. She’s fighting. She’ll get the news when she’s ready for it’’ — before indicating that he wanted to keep her from getting overly excited.
Cristobal was excited enough to compensate for his absent mother and the hundreds in attendance at the Carol Soffer Indoor Practice Facility.
“He’s a machine,’’ Jessica said. “He’s out the door at 4:30 a.m. for work. I don’t know anyone who works harder than he does. He’s soooo pumped to be back.“
“I’m 51 years old,’’ Cristobal said, “but as I walked through this morning, the things that came back to mind as if it was just yesterday. It’s incredible. It resonates. It’s that strong of an impression that it never leaves you.
“Tears. Joy. Absolutely awesome.’’
Cristobal’s voice reached a crescendo as he spoke of his UM playing days and his teammates getting IVs “for going way too hard during two-a-days’’ and how “resiliency” and “toughness” and “physicality’’ were part of his credo and how “more than ever it’s about the work” and “being relentless competitors.
“...Because when the U is on and the U brings it, there’s nothing like it,’’ Cristobal said. ...I am more driven and motivated than ever. I can’t wait to get to work!’’
“I’ll try to calm down a little bit now,’’ he said. “Sorry.’’
Cristobal left behind five seasons at Oregon and before that coaching stints at Alabama and FIU and UM and Rutgers to return home to Miami, where he grew up and won national championships as an offensive lineman in 1989 and 91. Known for his passion and intensity and nearly round-the-clock workday (he said he gets by on “16 shots of Cuban coffee and two hours of sleep”), he appeared to have energy to spare. And the hundreds in the audience — current and former players, coaches, administrators and boosters among them — gave Cristobal an enthusiastic standing ovation.
“What an honor. My God. What an honor,’’ said Cristobal, who wore a black suit with a green tie full of tiny U’s. He scanned the audience inside the indoor facility, where a massive orange-and-green, neon-lit U stood behind him, and orange banners with the names of legendary All-Americans hung above him. “Where do you start?’’ he said. “So many people [here] I had a chance to play with or coach or mentor.
“...When you saw all the trials and adversity they had to overcome to elevate the standard here... At the University of Miami you realize more than ever it’s about the work, it’s about the time invested, because without that it’s not real. It’s time to go to work.’’
UM second-year freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke was there with a handful of other Canes, and stood in the background. Cristobal made it a point to make Van Dyke the only player he identified by name, mentioning that Van Dyke was the best in the country and indicating he expected the quarterback to help in recruiting.
“It’s an exciting time you know,’’ Van Dyke told the Miami Herald before Cristobal addressed the crowd. “I can’t wait to have him as a coach. He came into a team meeting and you could just feel a different type of energy. He loves this place. He spoke with his heart. We’re really excited.’’
Cristobal’s 10-year, $80 million contract will give him everything he needs and more to make his hard work pay dividends, he believes, as do the former players and current coaches who came to see the new coach but old soul who vows to bring the program back to its glory days.
UM won national championships in 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991 and 2001.
“You’re hearing the word ‘championship’ thrown around more in the last 24 hours than you have in forever,’’ said former UM linebacker Jon Beason, who played at UM from 2003 to 2006. “First and foremost before you can make it into the College Football Playoff, you have to be on par in spending. We got the right guy. He’s a true blood.”
Former Canes punter Brian Monroe said it was “amazing” to have one of his own back in Coral Gables. “Mario set the standard with two national championships, just an amazing dude — the competitiveness, the willingness to help anybody,’’ Monroe said. “These kids are going to be so lucky and they’re going to love him because he’s going to bring the tough love they haven’t seen in a while that they need. Being a football player is not always fun. Somebody is going to have to love you tough and then have your back as a father.’’
Cristobal’s friends and fellow linemen Joaquin Gonzalez and Brett Romberg agreed that “the tone in the building is going to change.’’
“There’s going to be a giant dose of accountability,’’ Romberg said. “There’s been a little bit of a lackadaisical attitude.’’
Said Gonzalez: “Beyond words for Mario and his family and Alex Mirabal to come back. Mario brings more than a lifelike attitude to everything he does.’’
Mirabal, who Gonzalez said will be the new offensive line coach, showed up with former Miami Columbus High teammate Cristobal and at least six other UM coaches and recruiting staff members Tuesday evening at a Miami Central High practice.
Non-football coaches came to greet Cristobal as well, among them Jim Larranaga and Katie Meier from basketball, Gino DiMare and J.D. Arteaga from baseball and Paige Yaroshuk-Tews from tennis. They know how football drives the rest of the athletic programs.
“I’ve seen him with my own eyes,’’ Yaroshuk-Tews said. “This is a Miami Hurricane to the core. He’s run through the smoke, he’s been in the trenches, he’s worked his way up from the bottom of coaching all the way to the top. He’s an absolute winner.
“This is personal. This is about getting Miami football to where it needs to be. Football is the engine. When football is successful everybody is successful. Everybody in this department should be absolutely supportive.”
Added Arteaga: “Football success runs the factory. Success at the top trickles down, not just in all sports but in the school in general. The student body goes up. Applications go up. It helps everybody.’’
Cristobal said several times during his speech and afterward with the media, that “home is home” and “this home is special. It’s the most culturally diverse, vibrant, energized destination city in the entire world... When you have the opportunity to play at a place and then come back and coach there with the experience you’ve had surrounded by people and family that your fondest memories are of, what’s more powerful than that in this profession?”
▪ For those wondering about the turnover chain, created by former coach Manny Diaz, Cristobal said this when asked about it: “I haven’t even thought of that. I’ve never used one or know exactly what it is. Anything involving the program will be always addressed with players and staff because you’ve got to grant everything the respectful due process to figure it out. I’ve never done it.”
▪ Not out recruiting at Central with Cristobal were inside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Jon Patke, receivers coach Rob Likens and running backs coach Eric Hickson. Likens will be UM’s offensive coordinator for the Sun Bowl, with defensive line coach Jess Simpson serving as the bowl coach. Cristobal will make the trip with his family to El Paso, but will not interfere with the other coaches or game plan.