CARLOS CHAVEZ / Los Angeles Times
Eyoseph Efseaff's religion dictates he eat kosher food,
and., UCLA's willingness to see to his dietary needs won him over.
"He's always going a million miles an hour. When he came to
camp, when I called the guys over to a spot, he came sprinting up.
Right there in my face. That obviously caught my eye."
---- MARK WEBBER
UCLA OFFENSIVE LINE COACH
ON EYOSEFF EFSEAFF, ABOVE
See More Efseaff
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Bruin Offensive Lineman Efseaff Has Shown an Appetite for
School While Strictly Adhering to Religious Tenets as Russian Molokan
By SAM FARMER
Los Angeles Times, Sports D1, D9 April 25, 2001
Eyoseph Efseaff, a rising star on UCLA's offensive
line, is an easy to-please redshirt freshman whose simple needs reflect
his upbringing as one of eight kids raised on a farm in Porterville,
just south of Fresno. But on his recruiting trip to Westwood last
spring, Efseaff made a request that sent panicked Bruin coaches
scrambling every direction.
He wanted something to eat.
While that might not sound complicated, Efseaff is a
Russian Molokan who eats only kosher food. He arrived on campus Friday
evening, and all the places serving kosher food were closed for the
Evening turned to night, coaches frantically worked the
phones, and Efseaff's stomach started to grumble. Finally, they found
some prepackaged meals from the school's medical center.
"It was big time, the way coaches handled things," said
Efseaff, whose full name is pronounced YO-seff EFF-seff. "I had a
problem, and they fixed it. They really cared. I remember sitting in
the car with Coach [Mark] Webber when they first found out all the
places were closed. He had no idea what to do, but he started calling
people up and trying to work it out. It was neat."
That not only sold him on UCLA, but it won over his
father, Esi, who was never keen on the idea of sending his son to
"It took me a year and a half just to talk him into the
idea," said Efseaff, who has been starting at left guard during spring
practice. "Basically, his concern was the food. He didn't know if they
could accommodate me. The trip here convinced them they were able to
solve the food problem. There are churches here too, and it's not too
far from home."
Esi, who has eight children ranging in age from 14 to 24,
is enormously proud of Eyoseph. But he's a little worried about him
"We don't want him to just go off where he never comes
home again," he said. "Our religion, our people, we're very tight. We
want him to marry of his own faith. It's very diverse over there [at
UCLA]. We're being very cautious and taking each step cautiously with a
lot of prayer."
This much is clear: At 6 feet 3, 195 pounds, Eyoseph isn't
going hungry. He has emerged as one of he bright young prospects on the
line, and has the potential to start for four years. Regardless, he has
no intention of playing pro football. Molokans--Christians who broke
way from the Russian Orthodox church in the 1600s--recognize Sunday as
their day of rest.
"I'm restricted from playing in he NFL, but that's all
right because I'm having enough fun out here," he said. "It's something
that know I won't regret. I look at it this way: I've got four more
years out here, and I'm going to get everything out of it I can. My
fiends are like, 'What if, what if?' But I can live with this. I'm so
happy just being here."
He floored his coaches and teammates on his first day of
practice in August, when he shut down 311-pound Ken Kocher in a
protect-the-passer drill, then body-slammed Kocher when the junior
defensive tackle threw a punch. Efseaff, a former wrestler at Monache
High, wound up on top of Kocher and ripped off his helmet.
"Most kids aren't going to take on a battle like that,"
said Randy Taylor, UCLA's recruiting coordinator. "They're not
necessarily going to back down and yet they really don't want to go for
it. But Eyoseph went right after it."
In the end, Efseaff emerged as something of a freshman
folk hero. He shares an uneasy truce with Kocher, still considered one
of the team's toughest players.
"We're cool and all," Efseaff said. "But still, if he ever
did anything, I wouldn't take it."
Webber, who coaches UCLA's offensive line, said he noticed
uncommon energy in Efseaff from the start.
"He's always going a million miles an hour,"
"When he came to camp, when I called the guys over to a
spot, he came sprinting up. Right there in my face. That obviously
caught my eye.
"To have that kind of discipline that he has in his
spiritual life and his diet and all that, it, tells you something about
the man. He's a different young man. He's all business, very intense,
and that's just the way he plays."
Efseaff goes to great lengths to plan his meals. On
Mondays, he orders all his kosher food for the week from an off-campus
service. He stores the meals in the small refrigerator in the dormitory
room he shares with fellow freshman lineman Paul Mociler, then
microwaves them at all hours.
"That thing's getting a lot of work," he said, unwrapping
a container of spaghetti and meatballs to eat before afternoon
The Bruins have special meals prepared for him on the road
and for postgame snacks. During the Sun Bowl week, the team hotel had
kosher food flown in to El Paso.
He basically eats the same food as his
teammates--everything except pork and shellfish--but the difference is
in the preparation. Meats must be prepared and cooked a certain way. He
brings paper plates and plastic utensils with him when he travels.
Eyoseph, whose maternal and paternal great-grandparents
emigrated from Russia, plans to study the language at UCLA. He learned
some as a child, but has forgotten a lot.
Twice a month, his father drives 2-1/2 hours south from
Porterville and brings his son home for the weekend. There, Eyoseph
reunites with his two brothers and five sisters. There is no TV in the
home, and the family sits down together for at least two meals a
"It's one of the best interactive families around," said
Eyoseph's brother, Michieal, 24, who is married, has a baby daughter
and has moved into a home of his own. He runs the floor-cleaning
business his father started after giving up farming.
As they did last season, the Efseaffs will give each child
a chance to go to at least one UCLA home game this fall.
"I'm honestly so happy for this guy," Michieal said of
Eyoseff. "it's really cool, This is his dream. He's getting to do what