Saunders makes WIU history as first Senior Bowl invitee

Saunders makes WIU history as first Senior Bowl invitee
Senior defensive lineman Khalen Saunders is one of 25 FCS players invited to the Reese's Senior Bowl. (Photo by

Defensive standout Khalen Saunders has made Western Illinois history that the likes of Bryan Cox and Rodney Harrison never did.

The same goes for James Milton and Edgerton Hartwell, who won Buck Buchanan Awards as Leathernecks, ditto for Brett Taylor and Kyle Glazier finished as runner-ups. Others including Cyron Brown, Lee Russell and Jason Williams were finalists but didn’t accomplish what Saunders has.

Saunders--all 6-foot-2 and 310 pounds of him--is the first WIU Leatherneck ever invited to the Reese's Senior Bowl.

Saunders is one of 25 FCS players--and the only defensive tackle--selected for the annual all-star game held in Mobile, Ala. The event will take place Jan. 26, 2019, in Land-Peebles Stadium. Kickoff is at 1:30 CST.

Saunders and linebacker Pete Swenson were recently named first team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference.  They were also each honored as Associated Press FCS All-Americans. 

"Our entire Leatherneck Family could not be more proud of the accomplishments of Khalen and Pete," said head coach Jared Elliott in a WIU media release. "They exemplify being an All-American both on and off the field  The dedication and sacrifices they have made to be the best players in college football have left a blueprint for many to follow. What's so special about these guys is they understand this honor would not be attainable without their teammates."

Saunders was a Buchanan Award watchlist member. The three-year starter from St. Louis, Mo., finished the 2018 season third on the team in tackles (72) with 13 resulting in a loss. 

EIU Panther postseason all-stars

Eastern Illinois running back Isaiah Johnson was awarded the Offensive MVP for his team in the recent FCS National Bowl.

The Clarksville, Tenn. native rushed seven times, gaining 18 yards but had a loss of 14, thus his net was 4 yards. However, Johnson caught two passes for 124 yards highlighted by a 70-yard TD reception.

Josh Doyle

Josh Doyle

Josh Doyle, who helped open holes for Johnson and others the past three seasons at EIU, participated in the Senior Scout Bowl in Myrtle Beach, S.C. this past weekend.

Doyle, a Lake Geneva, Wisc. native, played in all 11 games and made nine starts at left tackle. He helped blocked for one of the top offensive units in the FCS which ranked 9th in passing offense, 23rd in total offense and 25th in scoring offense. In addition, Doyle slid over to finish game as long snapper against Tennessee State when Stephen Elmore was injured during the contest.

Panther wide receiver Alexander Hollins is waiting to hear if he will participate in the NFLPA Game held in Pasadena, Calif. 

Hollins was among the nation's top wide receivers ranking as one of only three to finish the season ranked in the top 15 in touchdowns, receptions and receiving yards. The Mississippi native finished 21st in the Walter Payton Award voting. A first team All-Ohio Valley Conference pick, Hollins was second in the FCS with 16 touchdown receptions. He was ranked third on the EIU and OVC single season list.


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