Alex McMahon '15
• Senior athletic training major from Westville, Illinois
• On track to graduate in December 2015
• Played soccer for 10 years
McKendree Bearcats punter and field goal kicker Alex McMahon '15 hasn’t let cancer block his goals and dreams.
“I want to help athletes get back to the field and enhance their performance to the best of their ability,” says the athletic training major, who would like to be a personal trainer or a strength and conditioning coach.
Alex knows what it feels like to get back on the field after a long absence. In 2011, with just eight days left in the school year, doctors found a tumor in his nasal pharynx. The diagnosis: Stage IV nasopharanygeal carcinoma, a rare cancer that affects only seven in a million people. He began weekly chemotherapy and radiation treatments, first in Danville, Ill., near his hometown and later in St. Louis.
Throughout his treatments, ongoing support from family, friends, faculty and staff members, classmates, teammates and coaches kept Alex motivated. “Alex’s Army” rallied, holding a benefit raffle, golf outing and other fundraisers to offset medical expenses. When he felt strong enough to visit the campus, the Bearcats let him break their huddles before games. They gave him a signed football and let him keep his #1 jersey until he was ready to return. The team hosted “Alex McMahon Day” and sold purple-and-black “Road to Recovery” rubber wristbands.
After two years of chemotherapy, radiation, remission, recurrence and rehabilitation, Alex returned to McKendree for good in January 2013. Uncertain of his football future, he emailed Coach Mike Babcock, who invited him to attend a team meeting and spring workouts.
“I kept up with everyone during the workouts and that was when I realized that I could play again at the college level,” Alex said. He earned his spot back on the team and stepped back onto the gridiron on Sept. 7, 2013.
“I was super nervous. I had butterflies until the first snap, but after the first snap it all went away,” he recalled. He played an outstanding game with a 62-yard career punt and was named special teams’ player of the game. Alex finished the season with a 37.6 yard punt average.
“I want to show people who have a life long illness, it doesn’t matter what you have, as long as you have a good support system and you want to do it, you can always put your mind to it and achieve the goals you want.”