Maria Mcllwain ‘16 joined The Auburn Plainsman during her sophomore year of college on a whim through a newswriting class. Little did she know this would be the profession that would stick, leading her to being a sports reporter in Texas four years later.
Her first position at the paper was as the copy editor, which showed her first-hand how to craft a good, well-written story. After three semesters of editing, she then jumped into the reporting field as the news editor.
It was during her year as news editor that she was able to cover some of the biggest stories in Alabama, including Mike Hubbard’s pretrial and the murder of Auburn football player Jakell Mitchell.
Reporting was thrilling for Mcllwain, but her true passion was yet to be discovered. After a friend told her about an opening the Opelika-Auburn (OA) News had covering high school football, she decided to give it a shot. Through that job, she found her love for sports writing.
“That couldn’t have been a better way to prepare me for what I’m doing now,” says McIlwain.
“At OA, I got to cover all sorts of high school sports and even some Auburn softball.” Outside of The Plainsman office, Mcllwain learned a great deal about reporting from her digital news classes. She attributes her basic journalism and camera skills to her broadcast journalism class, taught by Dr. Cruikshank.
Just one day after graduating in 2016 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Psychology, she moved to Manhattan, Kansas, to cover high school and Kansas State sports for The Mercury, Manhattan’s local newspaper. She stayed with that paper for a year, then accepted her current job as a sports writer at The Eagle in Bryan/College Station, Texas. Because football is essentially year-round in Texas, Mcllwain stays busy most of the time covering high school football.
“All of those Friday nights covering high school football in college really come in handy now. It’s more than football, though. Schools in this area are good at baseball and softball and we are always covering a good basketball, volleyball or track team too. I sometimes get to help cover Texas A&M.”
Besides writing about local team’s victories, Mcllwain gets the chance to share what athletes are passionate about — whether that’s the sport they are playing, academics or something else in their lives. “I try to help readers connect with the kids and young adults they watch on the field.”