For Alec Eickert of St. Charles, being ruled ineligible to compete in interscholastic sports his senior year of high school turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Eickert spent his first three years of high school at St. Charles North. For his senior year, he enrolled at Aurora Christian, where he appeared in one football game for the Eagles before being declared ineligible for further competition based on IHSA transfer rules.
In his one game at Aurora Christian, he made an impact, booting a school-record 44-yard field goal.
Losing his eligibility could have been a crushing blow to Eickert, but he was able to find the silver lining in the decision.
“It kind of worked out in a good way,” he says. “It gave me the opportunity to go full force with kicking.”
Eickert spent a lot of time working on mechanics. He also worked on his speed, competing in non-high school track competitions.
“The track aspect worked out real well,” he says. “I could run as an independent runner.”
He took part in some top-flight indoor meets, including the Illini Classic at the University of Illinois.
“It was a great time to compete with some of the best athletes in the nation,” Eickert said. “It was a real cool experience.”
The lack of a senior year of high school athletics made the college recruiting process for Eickert different than for many other athletes.
“Out of high school, I didn’t have the most experience, football-wise,” he notes. “Originally, the University of Missouri was my No. 1 choice.”
He also looked at Nebraska and Eastern Michigan, but Eickert wanted to compete in both football and track and those large schools wanted a commitment to one or the other.
“I started looking at smaller schools,” he says. “Taylor University was real popular at my new private Christian school.”
Located in Upland, Ind., between Fort Wayne and Indianapolis, Taylor is an evangelical Christian institution. As an NAIA school, Taylor was able to offer Eickert scholarships for football, track, and academics.
Eickert stepped into the starting kicker role for Taylor’s football squad and scored the first points of the year for the Trojans with a 42-yard field goal in the season opener at Anderson (Ind.). The following week, he connected from 48 yards against Iowa Wesleyan. He also was successful from 46 yards in a loss to Trine University (Ind.).
“I’m enjoying it a ton,” Eickert says of the season. “I’m real fortunate to have coaches who have a lot of confidence in me.”
That confidence is evidenced by the fact that, despite having one field goal attempt blocked and missing two others against Trine, the coaching staff didn’t hesitate to call upon Eickert to boot a 36-yarder in the fourth quarter that drew the Trojans to within eight points of the Thunder.
“As a kicker, you can’t really dwell on a missed kick,” Eickert says. “Whether it’s a make or a miss, you’ve got to keep your head in the game and stay focused and do the repeatable mechanics your body’s trained to do.”
Eickert says he spends a lot of time in practice working on mechanics and footwork. But he also lifts weights and participates in the same rigorous workouts as the other players.
“We do conditioning every Monday. I’m usually at the top of the chart,” he says. “I take advantage of the speed aspects.”
Even though the kicker is typically considered one of the least athletic members of a football team, Eickert says his teammates became well aware of his athletic ability early on, during two-a-day preseason practices.
“It’s interesting to see everyone’s reaction when they find out the kicker is one of the fastest on the team,” he says.
After winning their first two games, the Trojans have lost four straight and have yet to win a Midwest States Football Association league contest.
“We’ve got a tough conference,” Eickert says. “It’s been a little rough recently due to some injuries. ... But people are healing and it’s coming back together.”
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes the weekly On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To submit information on local athletes competing in college, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.