The Dean of Illini coaches, Greg McMahon enters his 13th year on the Illinois sidelines and seventh coaching the special teams and tight ends.
Experience breeds success and the Illinois special teams have had plenty of success in McMahon's tenure. That is evidenced by the amount of Illinois record holders that have come from McMahon's tuteledge, including the single-season punt average record holder Steve Weatherford, the school's all-time punting leader in every category, Steve Fitts, the single-season and single-game scoring leader Neil Rackers, the all-time punt return yardage leader, Eugene Wilson and the most consecutive extra points made streak by Peter Christofilakos (69).
In addition to the outstanding careers of the special teamers over the last six years there are the number of crowd-pleasing plays that have become memorable. Just in 2002 alone, the Illini tied No. 1 Ohio State with a last-minute 48-yard field goal by John Gockman, got on the board early with a 100-yard kickoff return for touchdown by Travis Williams, Wilson's 70-yard punt return for touchdown at USM and Brian Brosnan's blocked punt recovered by Kendrick Jones in the endzone against Arkansas State. In 2003, the Illini blocked three kicks, including one that was returned 66 yards for the score by Travis Williams (blocked by Derrick Strong). Running back E.B. Halsey scored the second special teams touchdown of the year with a 49-yard punt return against Purdue.
Since McMahon took over the special team duties in 1997, Illini kickers have averaged over 12 field goals made per season and connected on an impressive 188-of-191 extra points (.984). Fitts, Rackers and Christofilakos were regulars on All-Big Ten teams as well as semifinalists for national honors, Ray Guy Award and Lou Groza Award. In addition to getting off great kicks, the Illini have become known for blocking their share. Illinois blocked seven kicks in 2001, four by defensive end Terrell Washington, and followed that up with four blocks in 2002.
Illini special teamers have also had success in the pros as well. In 2001, Rackers was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals and long snappers Nathan Hodel (Arizona) and Mike Malczyk (N.Y. Giants) were signed as free agents.
While also great blockers, Illinois' tight ends have also flourished in the passing game. Over the last six seasons, the position has accounted for an average of 20 catches, 200 yards and 3 touchdowns a year. In 1999, Josh Whitman and Brian Hodges combined for 29 receptions, 295 yards and five TDs. Whitman received honorable mention All-Big Ten honors and was signed by the San Diego Chargers in 2001. He joined former Illini tight ends Matt Cushing (Pittsburgh) and Ken Dilger (Tampa Bay) in the NFL.
McMahon stresses excellence off the field as well. Whitman earned first-team GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American honors twice with a near-perfect 3.97 GPA in Illinois' nationally ranked business school and delivered the scholar-athlete speech at the College Football Foundation's Hall of Fame dinner. Placekicker JJ Tubbs held the highest GPA of any male athlete in his class during his entire career, earning Academic All-Big Ten honors four straight years.
McMahon came to Illinois in 1992 from Nevada-Las Vegas, where he spent two seasons coaching offensive tackles and tight ends. McMahon also spent time at Valdosta, Southern Illinois, North Alabama and Minnesota.
A native of Rantoul, the home of the Illinois football training camp, McMahon earned his bachelor's degree in psychology from Eastern Illinois in 1983 after playing four seasons as a defensive back for the Panthers. As a player, McMahon was a part of the 1978 NCAA Division II national championship EIU squad and 1980 NCAA runner-up.
McMahon and his wife, Linda, have three children, sons Drew, who is a member of the U of I football team, and Sam and a daughter, Lisa. The McMahon's reside in Champaign.
The McMahon File