Alexandru Ceachir named SMC Football Athlete of the Year

By: Sarkis Ekmekian When Alexandru “Cheech” Ceachir stayed up until 2 a.m. with his teammates and football coach back in Moldova to watch a Pittsburgh Steelers game, playing American football on an actual football field was merely a dream. He never imagined that he would be living that dream a few years later by playing in UCLA’s spring scrimmage game in front of 13,000 cheering fans.

“It blew my mind. It was more than I could ever imagine. I am really living my dream,” Ceachir said.

The Moldovan native has come a long way from playing football on a soccer field with a local competitive club called the Kishinev Barbarians. He has since moved to Los Angeles, played football at Santa Monica College, received a NCAA Division I football scholarship to play for the UCLA Bruins, and most recently was named SMC’s Football Student Athlete of the Year.

“Being named [Football Student Athlete of the Year] was great; it was a great feeling and more than I expected. I’m thankful for everyone—Coach Gifford Lindheim, Coach David Banuelos, Coach Steven Garcia—and Santa Monica College as a whole,” Ceachir said.

His six-foot-five figure helped him first get noticed at SMC. He joined the Corsairs in 2010 and started most games as their left tackle. His last season at SMC culminated with the Corsairs winning the 2011 Pacific Conference Championship, an achievement that had last been accomplished in 2003. Ceachir was also voted Most Improved Player by his teammates in 2010.

“We chose Cheech as our Student Athlete of the Year because of the fact that he had to go through so much to get to where he is—all the ESL requirements, classes and state requirements—and he excelled. UCLA doesn’t just take anyone. You need to be good academically as well,” said the SMC football Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator Steven Garcia.

Many football scholarship offers soon started coming his way from Florida International University, Fresno State, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Utah, Southern Methodist University and University of Hawaii among others. Ceachir had initially committed to the University of Utah, but after learning that his recruiter Norm Chow was leaving the Utes, he decided that UCLA was the place for him.

UCLA offensive line Coach Adrian Klemm recruited Ceachir and switched his Santa Monica left tackle position to left guard.

“Coach Klemm is a nice guy, friendly off the field but aggressive and explosive on the field. He’s a monster, in a good way,” said Ceachir.

According to Ceachir, the team is like a “big family” and “everyone tries to help and support each other.” He mentioned that his teammates Seali’i Epenesa, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Brett Downey and Greg Capella supported him through his transition.

Being from a country that is not accustomed to football and its roughness, Ceachir had to convince his family to follow his passion, mainly his mother, Irina Ceachir, who is a pharmacist. Although he is concerned about his own safety as well, Ceachir feels that football is worth the risk.

“Whatever you do, there is a risk. When you walk down the street, you can get into a car crash. Just living in this world is a risk,” he explained.

His family fully supports him, now realizing that football is Ceachir’s passion, and that he excels at it. As a matter of fact, his mother and 12-year-old sister, Anastasia Ceachir, are coming to Los Angeles to spend this summer with him.

“My dad has told me that he is proud, and that that he will cheer for me from Moldova,“ said Ceachir.

When asked about his pre-game rituals, Ceachir said that he tries to call his parents before every game, and if possible, go to church and relax before the game day.

“For the upcoming year, he does have the option to redshirt for a year if they want him to learn and prepare more, if needed, but he can also start. He can do anything he wants. It’s up to him what he gets out of this opportunity. The sky is the limit for him,” said Garcia.