By Wyatt Dojutrek, online sports editor
After being heavily recruited by Vanderbilt, Illinois and Syracuse, senior offensive lineman Alex Palczewski chose to play football for the Fighting Illini of Illinois on Jan. 24.
Palczewski believes that Illinois was not only the perfect place to continue his football career, but to also continue his academic career.
“[Illinois] just felt like it was the right place for me,” Palczewski said. “It’s really [close] to home and I really don’t want to go on a plane and go to school from there.”
According to Palczewski, Illinois was the only school out of the three that offered the major he wanted to study, Athletic Training.
Illinois also has offensive line coach Luke Butkus who has quickly made a connection with both Palczewski and head coach Mike Sebestyen.
“Coach Butkus established the relationship with Alex because he is going to be his position coach at Illinois,” Sebestyen said. “He came to really create a comfort level with Alex, and Alex I thought did the same for them as well.”
Palczewski also thought that the Jan. 19 visit from Illinois head coach Lovie Smith and the Illini coaching staff played a key role in the decision to commit to Illinois.
According to Sebestyen, Smith and his staff gave their vision of what Illinois Football would be like if Alex committed to their university.
Even though the Illini went 3-9 during the football season this year, Palczewski believes that the future of the program is much better than the team’s record indicates.
“Illinois football hasn’t been really good for a while,” Palczewski said. “I want to make as big as an impact as I can so we can get the program back to the top.”
Palczewski also had a lot of help from Prospect offensive line coach Tim Beishir, and Sebestyen believes that Beishir has done a great job with getting athletes besides Palczewski into great schools.
“Coach Beishir’s involvement throughout this process has been extraordinary,” Sebestyen said. “I’m just really proud of the work he has done not only with Alex, but with guys like Billy Matzek who got into Illinois for throwing, and Vince Shields. Guys have played for us this year and he has been putting the film [up] and being on the phones with these schools.”
With pressure from his friends as well as the media, Sebestyen believes that Palczewski handled this scenario as well as it could have been handled.
“I think that he handled all of this really well,” Sebestyen said. “It’s not easy to do when all of your buddies are asking, ‘Who came in today?’ Everyone will have an opinion of what school he should go to and that can be hard sometimes, so I think he did a great job.”
Palczewski did not think when he fractured a bone in his neck that a little more than a year later, he would be committing to play football at Illinois under Smith.
“If you were to tell me after that injury that I would play football for Illinois, I would have told you you’re crazy,” Palczewski said.
Sebestyen thinks that Palczewski has created a great inspirational story of what working hard and fighting back from injury can do for a player.
“It’s great to have a success story of a young man who had a major injury and then 15 months later, he gets a scholarship at a Division I school,” Sebestyen said. “That kid took a very uncomfortable and difficult situation, and made something amazing out of that.”