Moving on from former defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was the biggest move the Washington Commanders made following their 45-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, but there was an additional shakeup on the defensive side of the ball.
With former defensive backs coach Brent Vieselmeyer being relieved of his duties, assistant defensive backs/nickels coach Cristian Garcia has been elevated to take his place. Garcia, who joined the staff as a defensive coaching assistant in 2021, is still young in his coaching career, but with five games left on the schedule, he has an opportunity to have a larger role in improving the Commanders' secondary.
Here are three things to know about the position coach.
1. He had a unique path to making his mark in college sports.
You'll be hard pressed to find another path like the one Garcia took to make a name for himself at the collegiate level.
**Garcia began his playing career at Belen Jesuit Prep in Miami, and like many high school student athletes, he had dreams of playing in college.** The Division I route wasn't open to him, so he had to settle for playing at Malone University -- a Division II school in Ohio -- before transferring to Florida Tech. When that didn't lead to the results he wanted, he decided to sell all his furniture to get to Santa Fe College and work with the video crew at the University of Florida, hoping he would get a chance to be a walk on.
He finally got that opportunity in 2015 when Will Muschamp was fired. Garcia was one of two people -- him and a punter -- who earned a spot on the roster. He spent most of his time on scout team but played in Florida's bowl games against Michigan and Iowa in 2015 and 2016, respectively,
Garcia earned a more consistent role during 2016 and 2017, appearing in 24 combined games as a reserve linebacker and a special teams contributor, recording 16 tackles and a pass breakup. He was also one of Florida's four team captains during the 2017 season.
From being a videographer to making plays in the SEC, Garcia's journey is proof that proof that you should never stop shooting for your dreams.
2. He's a recipient of the "It's On Us" award.
It was 2016, and Garcia was getting countless calls from reporters wanting to speak with him. They weren't reaching out to talk about anything he did on the field. It was about something more important: being there for someone who needed help.
Garcia was working security at 101 Cantina in Gainsville, Florida, when he and his coworker prevented a woman from being sexually assaulted behind a dumpster. According to the police report, the woman was unable to walk on her own or keep her eyes open and had difficulty speaking.
"I hold strong moral values and I don't think anyone should be taken advantage of in that kind of way," **Garcia told local WTLV, a Gainsville television station.** "The girl was basically unconscious, so I knew there was no way she could be giving consent."
The story spread quickly, and three months later, Garcia was in Washington, D.C., as one of three recipients of the inaugural "It's On Us" Courage Award, which is given to individuals who help put a stop to sexual assaults on college campuses.
In addition to getting a tour of the Eisenhower Building, the Vice President's ceremonial office and the West Wing of the White House, Garcia was also honored during a reception at the Naval Observatory, the official residence of the vice president of the United States.
"They just thanked me for what I did and said I gave them a lot of hope," **Garcia told the Florida Gators’ official website.** "They embraced me. It was a good moment."
3. He's had a rapid rise in his coaching career.
Garcia's coaching career is still in its infancy, but he's taken significant strides in a short amount of time.
Less than a year after wrapping up his playing career at Florida, Garcia was hired as a graduate assistant at UNLV, helping with defensive quality control. He spent two seasons with the program before moving on to Georgia Tech, where he served in a similar role for the 2020 campaign.
Garcia joined the Commanders in 2021 as a coaching intern, but he did not stay at that position for long. He was added to the staff full-time as a defensive quality control coach in 2022, and in February, he was promoted to the team's assistant defensive backs/nickels coach.
Less than two years after getting into the NFL's coaching ranks, Garcia has been placed in charge of his own position group as the Commanders' interim defensive backs coach. It's a group that could use a different direction; the secondary ranks near the bottom in passing yards allowed through 12 games.
There's no telling where Garcia's career will take him next after this season, but as this year draws to a close, the young coach has a chance that few get this early in their careers.