Pictured is Lincoln-Way East senior Nick Allegretti ...
October 18, 2013
It didn't happen overnight, and it wasn't done without help.
But regardless of what stood in their way, Lincoln-Way East students Nick Allegretti and Caroline McCahey are now U.S. Army All-Americans.
The East students were recently selected to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 4, in San Antonio, Texas.
Allegretti — a center on the East Football team — is one of 90 Football players selected to join the All-American Bowl, while McCahey — a color guard member — is one of only 125 marching band members to participate in the halftime performance at the game.
"It takes a special person to be a soldier, just as it takes a special athlete or band member to be selected as a U.S. Army All-American," Sgt. 1st Class Brian Jones said during a selection ceremony Monday, Oct. 7, at East.
And while both Allegretti and McCahey said they were honored to be selected to the game, they also were looking toward finishing the year strong with their high school teams.
Allegretti's love affair with Football started when he was in kindergarten.
"I played two years of contact flag [Football]," he said. "So, we pretty much had full pads, but it was flag Football."
In second grade, Allegretti played one year with the Mokena Burros. But in third grade, his father, Carl, founded the Frankfort Falcons youth Football program.
"I played [offensive] and [defensive] line," Allegretti said of his early playing days.
When Allegretti graduated eighth grade, he was 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds. By the end of his freshman year, he was 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds. Now a senior, he stands 6-foot-4.
"I had quite a growth spurt," he joked.
His freshman year at East, he played on the sophomore Football squad.
"That was a great experience," he said. "I met a lot of the kids I played with for a lot of my career, because I always played up [a level]."
But the last two years have been special for Allegretti. As a junior, he was on the 13-1 team that finished second in the state at the Illinois High School Association Class 7A level, losing 10-8 to Glenbard West in the state final. This year's varsity squad was 6-1 through Week 7, with Allegretti anchoring the offensive line.
Allegretti said being named an All-American was the result of hard work, but he was quick to credit those who helped him along the way.
"It took a lot of hard work, but it is also because of the dedication of everyone who has helped me — my coaches, my parents, my brother, all my teammates," he said. "All the workouts I went to that have gotten me to this point, [my teammates] were there. They went through all of it with me. They put in all the hard work. I've just been blessed with this opportunity."
Allegretti said he is looking forward to the All-American Bowl experience.
"I'm going to get coached by some of the best coaches in the country, get to play with some of the best players in the country and to play on national TV will be pretty fun, too," he said.
East Football coach Rob Zvonar thanked those who attended the ceremony to honor "two very special young people."
"Having had the privilege of being [a] linebackers coach at the Army game in 2007, it is without hesitation that I can tell you from experience that Nick Allegretti is exactly the caliber of Football player that belongs in this game," Zvonar said. "It is for the best of the best. ... As great a Football player as Nick Allegretti is, the U.S. Army 2014 game is so much more than that. Nick is elite and strong in so many other areas. He is a young man of the strongest character and leadership. He is an extremely strong student, as his 4.4 GPA attests. He'd be on any academic All-American team, as well."
After receiving a ceremonial jersey, Allegretti also thanked those in attendance, including his parents, family, coaches and teammates. He also thanked the representatives of the U.S. Army. Allegretti also had a message for his teammates.
"With all due respect to this game, I would give it up in a second for one more opportunity to go downstate this year with you guys," he said. "I'm not ready for this to be over, and I know none of you guys are."
Caroline McCahey was originally a dancer.
She started dancing when she was 3 years old, and she said it just stuck. But her sophomore year, she decided to join the color guard.
"I was a dancer for 15 years, and [color guard] felt like it would be a good fit," she said, adding that the performing aspect of color guard meshes well with her dancing background. "Color guard is a lot bigger of a stage, especially in front of the whole stadium. I like that."
McCahey said the process to become an All-American was a long one, noting that her audition tape for the game included footage of her performing with the color guard, talking about her accomplishments and answering why she thought she should be an All-American.
But she said being selected was an amazing experience.
"Being chosen as one out of 125 in the country is just so exciting," she said. "I'm so honored to be chosen as part of it."
U.S. Army representatives presented McCahey with an All-American jacket.
"Caroline embodies the character and values of an Army-strong soldier," Jones said. "We're proud to have her on our team."
During her speech, McCahey said she was proud to represent East at the All-American Bowl.
"I'd first like to thank the Army for supporting high school music and providing me and all the other All-American band members with the opportunity to perform at the U.S. All-American Bowl," she said.
She also said she wouldn't be where she is today without the support of Bert Johnson and Chris Mroczek of the East band staff.
"I've known Caroline for three years now, and she is by far the epitome of what it means to be a Marching Griffin," Mroczek said. "She's loyal. She's dedicated. She's a hard worker, and she is a tremendous asset to the music department. She definitely sets the bar very high and is a great example of what we expect of students in the Marching Griffins. We're all very proud of her."
McCahey said she is looking forward to meeting all of the other students who were selected as All-Americans.
"Knowing that everyone else loves the sport and activity just as much as I do, everyone is kind of in the same boat," she said. "It's very exciting."
McCahey also said it was amazing to have two selections to the All-American Bowl from East. She said East's music department is very good and that "the Football team is good, obviously, every single year."
But just because she was named an All-American doesn't mean this season has already slipped her mind. McCahey also wants to do well at the state competition this year.
"I think our band program is really strong," she said. "I think we can do well."
The road to San Antonio
The U.S. All-American Bowl is to air on NBC live at noon on Jan. 4 from the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Joining Allegretti at the game will be Zvonar, who was invited to attend the U.S. Army Coaches Academy.
McCahey and the rest of the All-American marching band members will perform during the halftime show, which will also be broadcast live on NBC.