Leo Mireles, who took the reins as the new head football coach of the Rio Grande City Rattlers in January after 14 successful years as an assistant coach and coordinator in Laredo, is highly optimistic that his new approach and methods will help build a strong football program that will consistently reach the state playoffs.
Mireles emphasized, “The kids, administration, and the community at large have been very supportive and responsive. Everybody is looking forward to the future and to establishing a winning program. We’ve had an awesome offseason with the kids; we had a spring football program and a spring game. Parents are showing a lot of enthusiasm.”
“I’m very optimistic about building a winning culture and program here,” insisted the new Rattler skipper. “…The kids are very much buying in to what we’re teaching…I feel this program has the potential to be a consistent winner. I think we can reach the playoffs and even win a district title in year one.” He stressed that Rio Grande City has always been a community that enthusiastically supports its high school football teams.
Mireles, a 1993 Roma High School graduate, played on the Roma varsity for the first three years that the Gladiators fielded a varsity football team. In 1992, his senior season, he enjoyed tremendous success as a running back as he rushed for over 1500 yards. He played fullback on offense and safety on defense in his junior season.
Mireles experienced a highly successful 14-year career as an assistant coach and coordinator at three Laredo high schools. In those 14 years, his teams reached the state playoffs 12 times and advanced to the third round in eight different seasons. Most recently he coached six years at Laredo United, with three years as offensive coordinator and three seasons as defensive coordinator.
Mireles began his coaching career in the fall of 2004 at Laredo Nixon and served as the secondary coach for two seasons. He moved to Laredo Alexander in the fall of 2006 and was that team’s offensive coordinator for seven seasons. He served at Laredo United for six years from 2013-2018 and was offensive coordinator for the first two years, defensive coordinator for years three and four, offensive coordinator in year five, and defensive coordinator in the sixth season.
The new coach stressed, “I’ve been blessed to coach on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball…At all three Laredo schools, the kids did buy in fully and were fully committed to what the coaches were teaching and to establishing winning programs.”
Mireles added, “At all three schools, the kids were fully committed to working to establish a winning culture. At all three Laredo schools, the administrations were tremendously supportive…In 12 of my 14 years of coaching, my teams have reached the playoffs. Our teams, including all three schools, have been to the third round eight times…I coached at the highest level, first 5A and then 6A, for all 14 years.”
During Mireles’ first coaching job at Laredo Nixon, the Mustangs went undefeated in district play in both the 2004 and 2005 seasons. The Mustangs were bidistrict champions in both seasons and were able to advance to the third round in one of those years.
In the 2018 season, the Laredo United Longhorns achieved a 9-3 record, won a district championship, and lost to the Weslaco Panthers in the second round. Mireles recalled, “In the playoffs, our teams have encountered such players as Bradley Stephens (former great McAllen Memorial running back), Malcolm Brown (exceptional running back at Cibolo Steele), Sam Ehlinger (current Texas Longhorns quarterback) and Campbell Speights (current star McAllen Memorial running back). Brown went on to have a productive four-year career at the University of Texas, rushing for almost 2700 yards.
Mireles noted that United’s non-district opponents included schools such as Edinburg Vela, San Benito, San Marcos, Alamo Heights and San Antonio Reagan. He added that the Longhorns’ playoff foes included perennial state powers Converse Judson and Austin Westlake.
The new Rattler skipper commented, “I very much admire coaches like Nick Saban, Bill Belichek, Gary Patterson (TCU head coach) and P.J. Flack (the new University of Minnesota head coach). These are coaches who hold their players to high standards and expectations.” Belichek has coached the New England Patriots to six Super Bowl championships, and Saban, Patterson and Flack have excelled as college head coaches, with Saban winning five national titles at Alabama and one at LSU.
Regarding high school coaches, Mireles declared that he admires David Sanchez, the current head coach at Laredo United and his former boss, as much as anyone. He evaluated Sanchez as “a great leader and role model. His dedication to his program and will to win ranks with the best of coaches in this profession. I’ve been very lucky to have worked with many great coaches that have influenced my career, such as Danny Martinez, Joel Lopez, Augustin Ballesteros and Jose Briones.”
He added that there are many other high school coaches that he admires and appreciates, including Manny Gomez, John Campbell, Carlos Longoria and David Gilpin. He emphasized that these men are just a few of the coaches whose work and character he admires.
Concerning his offensive approach, Mireles declared, “I believe in operating a traditional spread offense. I believe in reading defenses and taking what the opposing defenses give us. We threw the ball quite a bit at all three Laredo schools. We were able to run the ball well enough to cause problems for opposing defenses.”
“At Alexander, we threw the ball a lot to our running backs,” added the coach. “At United in 2018, we ran the ball more than in previous years.”
About his defensive philosophy, Mireles explained, “We run a 4-3 defense; we believe in being sound and aggressive on defense. Successful defenses are both sound and aggressive. We believe in blitzing when the situation calls for it…On defense, it’s important to know your assignments and be sure and strong tacklers.”
“Correct alignment is always important on defense, especially in these times of high-powered offenses,” he insisted. “Speed is an absolute necessity on defense these days, more so than a couple of decades ago. There’s a lot of speed on offense (in today’s times); it’s important to have a lot of speed on defense.”
Among his core beliefs, stressed Mireles, is that “we believe in simplicity and playing fast on both sides of the ball…It’s important to know your role, both in coaching and on the playing field.”
The head coach contended, “The purpose of football is to create better young men that will be successful in life…Football is more than x’s and o’s; establishing a winning culture is most important and building young men into great people is even more important.”
“In the football realm, kids need to be taught to handle adversity,” commented Mireles. “One of life’s main lessons is learning how to handle adversity.”
Consistent attendance and achievement in the classroom are among his non-negotiable values, declared Mireles. He insisted, “We do stress the importance of kids being good students and going to class…You can’t be a good football player and a bad student. If they can’t get the job done in the classroom, they won’t get it done on the field.”
The new Rattler head coach emphasized that “we’ve created a leadership program here at Rio Grande City. The purpose of the program is to instill accountability, especially in the classroom…The leadership program is a 36-week program that focuses on building standards and a winning culture.”
Mireles explained, “In the leadership program, the kids vote to choose which kids (players) they want to be their leaders. Kids can more easily see the character flaws in their peers.”
Mireles noted that he has hired two coaches that were with him at Laredo United to serve on his coaching staff in Rio Grande City. Those coaches are Luis Lauriano, the defensive coordinator, and Estevan Camarillo, the linebacker coach. He indicated that Coach Omar Mireles, the new offensive coordinator, served on the previous Rattler coaching staff.
Mireles stressed that he is enthusiastic about taking the helm of the Rattler football program in his first head coaching job. He predicted that the program has all the ingredients, including strong community support, to become a consistent winner and establish itself as one of the stronger programs in the Valley. He says that his highest priority will be helping his players to develop into exceptional young men in all respects.