Remember when: Cecchini fondly recalls record-setting career

wlu
Photo: Wilfrid Laurier University

Christine Rivet
Waterloo Region Record

Andy Cecchini has happily moved on, although the game of football remains an enjoyable diversion in his life.

Wilfrid Laurier’s Vanier Cup hero from 1991 had no idea his dusty 24-year-old school career rushing record at Wilfrid Laurier was broken last week by Dillon Campbell.

That is, until a newspaper reporter came calling.

But the longtime gym teacher and gridiron coach at Denis Morris Catholic High School in St. Catharines said he is thrilled for Campbell.

“I actually had no idea I even held the record after all these years,” said Cecchini, 47, a married father of eight-year-old son Max and a daughter, Anderson, 10.

“I take my hat off to (Campbell),” Cecchini, a Thorold native, said. “Something like that takes a strong person and a strong character. You have to take a lot of hits and a lot of tackles to do it.”

Campbell, named the Ontario University Athletics conference’s MVP last season, galloped to 241 yards in Saturday’s shutout win over the Waterloo Warriors.

That gives the fifth-year All-Canadian tailback 3,069 rushing yards, surpassing Cecchini’s mark by eight yards with three regular-season games remaining in Campbell’s career.

Cecchini put an exclamation mark on his own career with an MVP performance in an unforgettable 25-18 win over Mount Allison in the Vanier Cup played 24 years ago at Toronto’s SkyDome.

He rushed for 130 yards and scored three touchdowns before a delirious crowd of 31,000 to lift the Rich Newbrough-coached Hawks to their first national championship.

“I was purple and gold through and through,” Cecchini said. “I have nothing but great memories now. Those experiences really gave me a good springboard into life.”

After Laurier, Cecchini signed a pro contract with the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers but didn’t crack the team’s roster.

“Sometimes I think maybe I should have put more into trying to play pro,” he said on the line from his St. Catharines home.

“My back and knees ache from playing football. I feel it every morning. So maybe it’s better this way.”

He said he would like to meet Campbell one day, to congratulate him in person.

Cecchini said while his life has mostly moved away from the gridiron, he still enjoys coaching his high school students on the junior team.

“Most people down here don’t even know I played football. I’m just a teacher to them.”

And that’s fine by him, he said with a laugh.

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