Matt Stevens, IlliniGuy Football Writer
July 15, 2021
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Folks may have just found a surefire way to get Illinois senior offensive tackle Alex Palczewski to stop talking so much.
Simply ask him anything regarding his injury status, rehabilitation process or his status for fall camp or the beginning of the 2021 season opener at Champaign’s Memorial Stadium on Aug. 28 against Nebraska.
The super senior right tackle, who is slated to return for his fifth and final season with the Illini, gave media several iterations of “it’s going good” and the rehabilitation was “difficult” during just his second media availability since injuring the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee early in the 23-20 victory at Rutgers on Nov. 14.
Palczewski’s injury required immediate surgery following the contest and he missed the final four games of the 2020 season. Due to the 2020 season starting so late due to the coronavirus pandemic delaying the start of the Big Ten Conference football season, the 310-pound right tackle was also held out of the 15 spring practice sessions led by new Illinois head coach Bret Bielema.
All signs point to the preseason All-Big Ten Conference third team being available when the Illini begin fall practice next month as Palczewski arrived at the stadium Wednesday without the need of any brace or protective sleeve on his right leg.
Palczewski and Illini senior teammate Michael Marchese were at Memorial Stadium to promote the annual ‘Lift for Life’ event to support the rare disease community sponsored by the Illinois Chapter of Uplifting Athletes. The Illini have raised over $130,000 in the first eight years of the Lift for Life where captains (which include Palczewski and Marchese this season) pick a team of Illini players for a set of weight room competitions.
Palczewski, who will begin the 2021 campaign on the national watch list for the Outland Trophy given to the nation’s best lineman, has 40 career starts (tied for the most among current Illini with left tackle Vederian Lowe) since arriving in the spring of 2016 after receiving a scholarship offer from then-Illini offensive line coach Luke Butkus.
“I didn’t know anything about college football until my junior year of high school,” Palczewski said. “I was just happy my parents didn’t have to pay for college.”
Palczewski, who will be one of four projected returning starters for the 2021 season, is just eight starts away from tying the Illini school career record currently held by former quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase (2010-13), and former offensive linemen Ryan McDonald (2005-08) along with Tim Simpson (1988-91).
Palczewski said Wednesday he’s developed an instant bond with his third offensive line coach in his college career as the Mount Prospect native grew up just 15 minutes from Bart Miller.
“He recruited me a little bit in high school,” Palczewski said when Miller was on Tracy Claeys’ staff at Minnesota. “He’s a great dude who I immediately started clicking with, hanging out with, learning from and the connection there is real strong.”
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