HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - This weekend's trip to Miami isn't just a homecoming for a number of Marshall University football players. Offensive line coach Alex Mirabal not only returns to his former home, but his former team as well.
Mirabal spent six years on former coach Mario Cristobal's Florida International University football staff - three as tight ends coach and three as offensive line coach - while holding the title of assistant head coach. The Thundering Herd (7-3, 5-1 Conference USA) faces FIU (1-9, 1-5 C-USA) on Saturday at 6 p.m. on Fox College Sports Central.
"I'm excited to go back just for the fact of the team I'm going back with," Mirabal said. "This is a team that's winning and needs to win that game so that we can have one of our goals, which is winning that East Division. That's why I'm excited.
"It's going to be good to see my family and friends," he added. "It's going to be great. But I don't have any attachment with anyone on that staff. There's no one on our staff that stayed with that staff. There's nothing tugging at the heart there."
Mirabal was let go when Cristobal was dismissed after a 3-9 season in 2012 - even though the Panthers went to back-to-back bowl games in the two seasons prior. He was hired at Marshall in February and reunited with former FIU offensive coordinator and current Herd offensive coordinator Bill Legg. Mirabal said it will be nice to shake hands and say hello to former players after the game, but he's kept his distance since he left.
"The day we got fired, I called all the offensive linemen and thanked them for what they did for me and told them that whoever they ended up hiring, you need to give that person the same chance you gave me," he said. "And I never talked to them again, and I didn't because I didn't think it was professional. I think you have to allow the kids you leave behind to build a relationship with those coaches that have come in."
Meanwhile, he's grown to love his new home. He'll be hosting 15 of his family members for Thanksgiving next week.
"I miss my friends and family," he said. "I don't miss Miami. I love it here in Huntington. I tell everyone Huntington's a place with no false pretenses."
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