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College Football Recruiting Extraordinaire: Mario Cristobal, Recruiter of the Year

Mario Cristobal, Recruiter of the Year.
Mario Cristobal, Recruiter of the Year.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

What would Alabama's Class of 2015 look like without the hard work of Mario Cristobal this past recruiting season? They may have not gotten the signatures of 5-stars Calvin Ridley, Daron Payne, and Minkah Fitzpatrick. He also recruited 4-stars Lester Cotton, Richie Petitbon, Shawn Burgess-Becker, Brandon Kennedy, and 3-star Matt Womack who flipped from LSU.

Last year, he was credited with reeling in the biggest catch of 2014 in 5-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson who became a Freshman All-American this past season at Alabama. Cristobal also brought in offensive linemen JC Hassenauer, Ross Pierschbacher, and Dominick Jackson from the far reaches of the country.

If his recruiting prowess is not enough for you, consider where he had to go to get these young men. His territory is the United States:

Cristobal map

Calvin Ridley Pompano Beach, FL
Daron Payne Birmingham, AL
Minkah Fitzpatrick Jersey City, NJ
Lester Cotton Tuscaloosa, AL
Richie Petitbon, Washington, DC
Shawn Burgess-Becker Pompano Beach, FL
Brandon Kennedy Wetumpka, AL
Matt Womack Senatobia, MS
Cameron Robinson West Monroe, LA
JC Hassenauer Saint Paul, MN
Ross Pierschbacher Cedar Falls, IA
Dominick Jackson San Mateo, CA

For his efforts, Mario Cristobal has been named Recruiter of the Year by 247Sports, ESPN, and (Rivals has yet to name their ROY).


Cristobal was a four-year letterman with the Miami Hurricanes between 1989-1992 and a member of the Canes' 1989 and 1991 national championship teams. In 1992, he earned first-team All-Big East honors as an offensive tackle. After a few years playing in NFL Europe he returned to Miami to become a grad assistant. Three years at Rutgers as a full assistant  under Greg Schiano and three more back at his alma mater led to his first head coaching job at Florida International.

Coming off a 0-12 season, Cristobal was only able to improve the team's record by one win in his rookie season as coach. 5-7 and 3-9 seasons were followed by the Panthers' first winning season ever (7-6) and first bowl game in 2010.

The next season, FIU ascended to 8-5 which included a win at Louisville and another bowl game.

The team fell back to 3-9 in 2012 causing FIU AD Pete Garcia to make the puzzling decision to fire him - a move that the Miami Herald's Greg Cote called "impatient, unfair". Many FIU fans are still upset over this move today. Since his firing, the Panthers have gone 5–19 overall and 4–12 in the weak Conference USA.

Among the players Cristobal put into the NFL from FIU are Pro Bowl WR T.Y. Hilton (2012-2014; Indianapolis Colts 3rd round/92nd pick in 2012), Jacksonville Jaguars leading tackler SS Jonathan Cyprien (2013-2014; Jax 2nd round/33rd pick in 2013), and DE Tourek Williams (2013-2014; San Diego Chargers 6th round/179th pick in 2013).

After the firing, Cristobal briefly took a job with Miami as tight end coach but Nick Saban made him a better offer to become the offensive line coach. He was charged with the challenging task of rebuilding an offensive line that lost three legendary Bama linemen: Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones, and D. J. Fluker.

He had been rumored to be a candidate at Pitt before they hired Paul Chryst and is also a future contender to replace Al Golden at Miami should they part ways anytime soon.

The 44-year old Cristobal is married and has two sons.