Thursday, December 16, 2010

CHIMDI CHEKWA IS A TEAM PLAYER, AN ALL-AMERICAN TEAM PLAYER

Ohio State senior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa is the definition of 'team player.' (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
COLUMBUS — Ohio State senior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa is one of the best football players on one of the best defenses in the country, and yet, he receives about as much fanfare for his greatness as a tambourine player in a rock band.

Chekwa, who performed at an NFL level this season for the No. 6 Buckeyes — recording a team-high in interceptions (three) and pass deflections (eight), as well as adding 42 tackles and a sack for the No. 2 ranked defense in the nation — usually takes a back seat to players like Nebraska's Prince Amukamara and LSU's Patrick Peterson, when the discussion of elite collegiate cornerbacks comes up.

However, the lack of hype didn't prevent the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) from recognizing Chekwa's abilities and efforts though, as he was named to their All-America Team on Sunday afternoon.

Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel said Chekwa is a prototype student-athlete and was thrilled that he was selected to the squad by the writers.

"He's a workmanlike guy," Tressel said of Chekwa. "Just a quiet guy that is always where he's supposed to be and doing what he's supposed do and studying like crazy because he's an outstanding student. He's just a focused guy.

"And exactly why he hasn't (gotten the hype)? I don't know, but I think he's deserving of the recognition that the writers saw in him."

The writers are not the only people who recognize Chekwa's grandeur.

"Chim's a very good ballplayer, can't take nothing away from him," OSU senior defensive back Jermale Hines said. "To me, I think he's a great ballplayer. Just his knowledge of the game, the things he brings to the team  ...

"I just think he's a very great player."

Perhaps one of the reasons he doesn't receive enough ballyhoo could be because he doesn't toot his own horn, or break out into a choreographed dance after every interception. No, he just does whatever it takes for his team to win the game.

His roommate, OSU senior guard Bryant Browning, said that Chekwa is the quintessential team player.

"He's pretty humble about it all," Browning said of Chekwa. "He's definitely a team guy, he's always worried about the team's success, especially with the defense. He just tries to be a leader in the defensive backfield, flying around making plays, just trying to hold receivers to nothing.

"He's all about the team."

Chekwa (5) celebrates with his team.
(The Buckeye Times/Joshua Stueve)
Browning is certainly speaking the truth about Chekwa. When asked Tuesday how he felt about being named an All-American, Chekwa went all "team guy" with his answer.

"I think our defense did a great job this year and I think somebody on the defense should have been recognized for something," Chekwa said. "I think it's a tribute to our defense and I'm honored to be the guy to get the award or honor for this defense."

Chekwa did actually admit though that he saved his best season for last.

"I think I did pretty good this year," Chekwa said. "I think I did better than all my other seasons.

"I still have one more game to go, so hopefully I finish strong."

HOMECOMING FOR CHEKWA ... When Ohio State meets Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl on January 4 in New Orleans, it may mean a little more to Chekwa, who lived in "The Big Easy" for most of his childhood.

Chekwa said playing in New Orleans in his final collegiate game will certainly be a very special time for him and his family.

"Yeah it is (special)," Chekwa said. "All my family are in the south in that area — Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana — so a lot of them will be able to come down to the game and support me. All of my friends will be there, so it's going to be a little bit of a homecoming for me."

Although he went to high school in Florida before coming to Ohio State in 2006, Chekwa said New Orleans is where he calls home.

"It's kind of my home," Chekwa said of New Orleans. "Actually, I've lived (in Ohio) just as long as I lived in Florida. I lived in New Orleans for so long, it's my home and it's going to be fun to go back there and play in the Sugar Bowl."

Chekwa was part of the Ohio State team who played in the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans during the 2007-08 season. It was the first time he had been back to the city since it had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

"It was different, you know, there had been a lot of stuff that had been rebuilt," Chekwa said. "The city wasn't like it was when I left."

Luckily for Chekwa, he wasn't living in New Orleans during the time of the disaster.

"I moved before Katrina, so I wasn't affected," Chekwa said. "I had a brother who was in Louisiana and I had friends who left during that time, some who stayed there and waited it out. I know people who were affected, but nobody I know was hurt too bad.

"But obviously, it was a tough time for everybody there."