McKendree University Inducts Alumni into Sports Hall of Fame

Three Athletes, Football Coach to be Honored on Oct. 27

(LEBANON, Ill., October 18, 2018) — Rory O’Connell, Jenna (Shellenberg) Busler, Brady Stewart and Jim Monken will enter the McKendree University Sports Hall of Fame in 2018. The University will honor these and other accomplished alumni at its annual awards dinner on Oct. 27 at the St. Clair Country Club in Belleville, Ill.

Hall of Fame inductees are athletes, former coaches and alumni coaches or sports professionals who, through leadership and character, have made exceptional contributions to the honor and prestige of McKendree University in the field of athletics. Meet the 2018 honorees:

Rory O’Connell, of Joliet, Ill., was one of the pioneers of a new era when McKendree announced it was reviving its football program in 1996, following a 45-year absence from the gridiron. Over the first four years of the new program, O’Connell became one of the leaders of the Bearcats’ program and helped set a standard for future players to uphold.

A four-year starter in the secondary, he showed his leadership skills both on and off the gridiron. He was a team co-captain in all four seasons and also served as a Class of 2000 officer. After helping to lead the Bearcats through their inaugural season in 1996, O’Connell played an integral role as McKendree won eight games and earned its first-ever berth into the NAIA Football Championship Series in 1997. He guided the Bearcats to a pair of playoff appearances, with the other coming in his senior season of 1999.

Along with posting 152 career tackles, O’Connell was remarkably consistent in picking off opponents’ passes over his four seasons. For his career, he registered 19 interceptions, including five each in 1996, 1998 and 1999. His 19 interceptions are more than double the next closest McKendree player at the time of his induction, and his five picks on three different occasions equal the Bearcats’ single-season mark.

Of his 19 career interceptions, he returned five for touchdowns, which is still a program record. He established a McKendree record with three pick-sixes as a sophomore in 1997, a mark that was matched 20 years later. In addition to his McKendree career interception mark, he ranks second with 31 pass break-ups. Also a threat as a punt return specialist, he still sits in the Bearcats’ all-time top five with 62 punt returns and 509 return yards.

O’Connell was a two-time first-team All-Conference selection during McKendree’s first two years as a member of the Mid-States Football Association-Midwest League in 1998 and 1999. He also earned Academic All-Conference honors following the 1998 season.

Long before McKendree introduced powerlifting into its intercollegiate offerings, Brady Stewart, of Carterville, Ill., was making a large impact in the sport. He has enjoyed success competing at the national and international level, and has used his experience to help train and coach a new generation of competitors in the discipline.

Stewart became a member of USA Powerlifting in 2002 during his undergraduate days. Since that time, he has become one of the most dominant and decorated powerlifters in U.S. history. At the time of his Hall of Fame induction, he has earned six gold medals, one silver medal and three bronze medals in national championship competition. He is a three-time gold medalist in the North American Powerlifting Federation and holds the mark for the all-time heaviest bench press regardless of weight class.

In addition, Stewart is a nine-time American record holder in the bench press between the 242-pound and 264-pound weight classes. He currently holds the American and North American bench press record for the 264-pound class (120 kg) at 785.9 pounds (356.5 kg). He became the first athlete to bench press 700 pounds or more in the 264-pound weight class. He is also the former American record holder in the squat, bench press and total in the 242-pound weight class as well.

In 2009, he was a member of the U.S. squad that became the first American powerlifting team to win a World Team Championship. He is also the only lifter in U.S. history to have medaled in OPEN World Bench Press Championship competition in the 264-pound weight class. Stewart is a six-time member of the U.S. National Bench Press Team and has competed in South Africa, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Denmark, Canada, Sweden, and the U.S.

He has also moved into the role of training and coaching powerlifting athletes. He is the owner and operator of Zion Barbell in Carterville, and led his team to the 2017 and 2018 Illinois State Powerlifting Team Championship. Stewart is the only U.S. coach to have trained seven men who have bench pressed more than 500 pounds in competition, with five of them surpassing the 600-pound mark.

Jenna (Shellenberg) Busler, of Denver, Colo., and formerly of Troy, Ill., put together one of the most memorable careers for any player ever to wear a McKendree women’s soccer uniform. By the time she played her final contest for the Bearcats in 2006, she helped rewrite the program’s record book, and still stands atop the all-time scoring list at the time of her Sports Hall of Fame induction.

As a freshman in 2003, Busler led McKendree with seven assists and finished third on the team with 13 total points. She was part of a Bearcats’ squad that finished the season with a perfect 4-0 record in American Midwest Conference play. That marked the first of seven consecutive undefeated conference campaigns for McKendree as the program reeled off 47 straight conference victories from 2002 to 2010.

In 2004, Busler scored a team-leading 34 points, netting 14 goals on her way to the first of three consecutive AMC Player of the Year awards. She led the Bearcats in scoring in each of her final three seasons at McKendree, posting 15 goals and 33 total points as a junior in 2005 before closing out her playing days with 13 goals and 32 points in her senior campaign of 2006. She  finished her McKendree career with 45 goals and 22 assists for 112 points, and still reigns as the Bearcats’ all-time leading scorer at the time of her induction.

Along with her three AMC Player of the Year plaques, Busler was a three-time NAIA All-American honoree, collecting second-team accolades in 2005 along with honorable mention recognition in 2004 and 2006. In addition, she was a three-time NAIA All-Region V performer. In the classroom, she was a three-time Academic All-AMC selection.

In four years of wearing a McKendree uniform, she helped lead the women’s soccer team to a 60-16-6 overall record, along with a perfect 16-0 mark in conference play. The Bearcats made three appearances at the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship during her career.

Jim Monken, of Swansea, Ill., enjoyed a successful football coaching career at both the high school and collegiate level that spanned more than four decades. After compiling 177 wins over a 32-year high school career, he returned to his alma mater, bringing his unique coaching style to the McKendree sidelines and helped make the Bearcats’ kicking game one of the top units in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

The 1960 McKendree graduate played baseball for the Bearcats before embarking on his football-coaching journey. He began as a football and track assistant coach at East St. Louis Assumption High School for seven years. Monken was elevated into the football head-coaching role in 1967. He spent the next quarter-century coaching two programs in East St. Louis (Assumption High School and Lincoln High School), amassing an overall record of 177-67-7 during that span.

In his 25 years as a high school head coach, his teams averaged better than seven wins per season and made 15 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) state playoff appearances. Four of his teams reached the IHSA state semifinals under his leadership. He was also a four-time Coach of the Year recipient, in 1975, 1980, 1985 and 1987.

After leaving the high school ranks in 1992, Monken spent a little more than a decade away from the sidelines until accepting an invitation to join Carl Poelker’s coaching staff at McKendree in 2003. He took on the task of coaching the kickers and punters. Despite losing the ability to speak due to a stroke, he was able to communicate through other means to get the most out of his pupils. He was instrumental in the development of kickers Stephen Webb and Jordan Fark, as well punters Bret Dougherty and Jordan Spurlock, who rank among program leaders in their respective disciplines.

During his time on the McKendree coaching staff, Monken helped lead the Bearcats to 68 victories along with five conference titles and five NAIA Football Championship Series appearances.