Meet the Vince Lombardi of American football in Mexico

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by TED MADDEN

WFAA

Posted on April 24, 2011 at 10:53 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 29 at 4:15 PM

College football is a major institution in the United States, so it's not shocking to see the SMU football team practicing at seven in the morning in the middle of April. What may be surprising is that football means enough in Mexico that an entire coaching staff from one of its colleges would come to observe.

Diego Garcia Miravete and his assistant coaches made the 22-hour drive from Mexico City to spend a few days with June Jones and his staff.

"We spend a lot of time with them," said Jones. "We let them into our meetings and do everything, so it's pretty good. Hopefully we won't ever have to play them."

Coach Diego is the head coach at Monterrey Tech, on the Santa Fe campus, but he made a name for himself at the National University of Mexico, where he won 9 national championships.

"National University 18 years," said Diego. "We have number one nine times. And I am coach of the year nine times."

Joe Avezzano calls Diego the Vince Lombardi of college football in Mexico. The former Dallas Cowboys special teams coach has had a long relationship with Coach Diego, both as a colleague and a friend. And it began with a shared interest in football.

"It's a game that's passed on and it's very important to share your information," said Avezzano. "I know you don't share with your opponents, but there are many other people you don't play. And this is how you learn -- by visiting people."

"In Mexico we have 105 years make it American football sport," said Diego, "but we don't have school for coaches, you know? The only school for coaches is when every school in USA and guys, guys coach Avezzano help to us, much better program."

It was 1976 when Coach Diego decided he wanted to contact an American coach. At the time, Johnny Majors was the coach at Pittsburgh, where Tony Dorsett won a Heisman trophy. The next year, Majors moved to Tennessee and had a young Joe Avezzano on his staff. And they received a cold call, from some coach in Mexico.

"I talked to Coach Majors in Spanish, because i don't know any English," recalled Diego laughing. "And he, 'Who, who is this?' Coach Diego in Mexico. What is Mexico?"

"Our football secretary came and got me," said Avezzano. "'Coach, will you take this call please?' I asked the secretary later, Why'd you come get me? And to her, Avezzano was a foreign name also, so she thought I would understand everything."

A year after visiting Tennessee, Coach Diego won his first national championship, in 1978. Now it's common for football coaches in Mexico to come to the United States to learn more about the game.

"In the past three years, I believe we've had four to five different staffs visiting us, from different place in Mexico," said SMU's offensive graduate assistant, Carlos Barocio-Leon. Before joining the Mustangs staff, Barocio-Leon spent several years coaching in Mexico and in Europe. For a few of those years, he was the offensive coordinator under Coach Diego.

"Carlos Barocio is special guy, special guy, very special guy," said Diego. "The only Mexican -- authentic Mexican coach, coaching in the world."

"It's difficult to compete in an environment where there are so many great coaches in the U.S.," said Barocio-Leon. "So just being here is an accomplishment for a lot of people."

Over the years, Avezzano and Coach Diego have visited one another to talk about football, but their initial meeting in 1977 didn't stop there.

"And then we got the guitars out," remembered Avezzano, "and then we got a little tequila and we got to singing and dancing."

This year's trip wasn't all business either.
 

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