College Sports

Former McKendree football player McMahon succumbs to cancer

Alex McMahan
Alex McMahan James Visser/visserphoto.com

Former McKendree University football player Alex McMahon, 25, on Sunday lost his five-year battle with nasopharyngeal cancer.

Alex came to McKendree in the fall of 2009 from his hometown of Westville, located in east central Illinois near Danville.

After being diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer — a rare type of head and neck cancer — in spring 2011, McMahon took time off for treatments before returning to school.

McMahon rejoined the football team to complete his four-year career as a punter for the Bearcats while completing requirements for his bachelor’s degree in athletic training this past spring.

“McKendree University and the Bearcat athletics family have suffered a great loss,” said Chuck Brueggemann, the McKendree athletics director. “Alex McMahon was much more than a student-athlete. He was an inspiration to everyone that he came in contact with through his brave and courageous fight against this deadly disease.

“Alex was fearless in his battle, showing great courage as he fought to laugh, love and live a full life. He balanced his treatments and his class schedule all while completing his career with our football program. Alex will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Alex’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

In 2014, McMahon capped his four-year McKendree football career by setting the program record for highest punt average at 38.9 yards per kick. He also ranks fourth on the Bearcats’ career list for punt yards (4,858) and fifth in punt attempts (125).

Alex McMahon was much more than a student-athlete. He was an inspiration to everyone that he came in contact with through his brave and courageous fight against this deadly disease.

McKendree Athletics Director Chuck Brueggemann on former Bearcats football player Alex McMahon

McMahon had 13 career punts of 50 yards or more, including a career-long 62-yard boot in his first game back on the field in 2013 that followed his two-year absence from the program. He also pinned the opponents inside their own 20-yard line 44 times.

“Alex is the best punter I have ever coached,” said Carl Poelker, who was McKendree’s coach for McMahon’s first two seasons with the Bearcats in 2009-10. “He had such joy when he played the game. Above that, Alex was a great competitor and a first-class individual. Alex was one tough young man, and showed a tremendous amount of courage with the way he handled everything that was thrown at him. He was one of a kind.”

McMahon holds the distinction of being the only student-athlete in McKendree history to play multiple seasons for the Bearcats in two different national organizations.

He had such joy when he played the game. Above that, Alex was a great competitor and a first-class individual. Alex was one tough young man, and showed a tremendous amount of courage with the way he handled everything that was thrown at him. He was one of a kind.

Former McKendree football coach Carl Poelker

In his first two years as a student-athlete (2009 and 2010), McKendree competed as full members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Upon McMahon’s return to the Bearcats’ program as a junior in 2013, McKendree had completed its transition to NCAA Division II membership.

In addition to his accomplishments on the football field, McMahon was recognized for his achievements in the classroom. He was a two-time academic all-conference honoree in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, and was also a member of the dean’s list.

Not only did Alex meet his health challenges head-on, but he was going to make sure he was prepared and was going to give you nothing but his best when he put on the McKendree uniform. Alex was a special person, the kind you will remember forever.

McKendree football coach Mike Babcock

“The best part about Alex’s personality was that he had the mentality of a fighter,” said current McKendree coach Mike Babcock, who coached McMahon during his final two seasons in 2013-14. “This was a young man who was taking his regular treatments during the week, going to class and then playing football for us.

“Not only did Alex meet his health challenges head-on, but he was going to make sure he was prepared and was going to give you nothing but his best when he put on the McKendree uniform. Alex was a special person, the kind you will remember forever.”

Funeral arrangements for McMahon are pending. McKendree will also honor his memory with a moment of silence prior to the Bearcats’ homecoming game Saturday at Leemon Field against Saint Joseph’s College.

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