Alec McEachern was a star two-way player for the Benet Academy Redwings and is now a scholarship athlete at the University of Illinois. He’s the subject of our latest Where Are They Now, presented by Molly Maid of Aurora Naperville Area.
For some in our Where Are They Now series, success and accolades arrive almost immediately. But for others, the on-field achievements may take years of diligent work and a never give up spirit.
2017 Benet Academy graduate Alec McEachern was a standout on the football field. A two time All-Conference and All-Area selection, the Redwing star hardly ever left the field as the team’s starting safety on defense and as prominent running back on offense. As a senior in 2016, McEachern helped his team advance to the 7A semi finals, while earning Honorable Mention All-State honors in the process.
Black and Red to Orange and Blue
As a versatile, top tier player on one of the state’s best teams, there were scholarship opportunities on the table for the 6’1 215 pounder. But McEachern wanted a chance to wear the uniform of his favorite team growing up, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini.
The former Redwing joined the roster as a freshman in the fall of 2017 as a walk on. After redshirting that season, he began to see playing time on special teams in 2018, playing in four games and making his first career tackle.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, McEachern bulked up and moved from safety to linebacker, becoming a full time starter on special teams. Despite still being a walk on, he even got to play offense once again, lining up at fullback on a goal line touchdown against Rutgers.
In the COVID shortened 2020 season, McEachern continued to start on special teams, while seeing more playing time as a reserve linebacker, setting a career high with five tackles. Head Coach Lovie Smith was fired near the end of the season, and the Illini hired Bret Bielema as his replacement in December. After four seasons of hard work on the practice field, in games and in the classroom, Coach Bielema showed the Benet alum that his dedication to the program had not gone unnoticed.
Hard Word Rewarded
McEachern along with teammates Christian Bobak, Tailon Leitzsey and Michael Marchese were surprised with full athletic scholarships following a team meeting in early April. A moment that will never be forgotten by the athletes or the McEachern family.
Someone who shares a familiar experience is Naperville native and Neuqua Valley graduate Donny Navarro, who also went from walk on to scholarship player at Illinois in 2019. A connection that did not go unnoticed between the two.
Now a scholarship player on a Big Ten team and a three time Academic All-Conference selection, the recipe for success is clear for Alec McEachern.
For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Justin Cornwell
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