Illini Football: Mike Dudek Comeback Truly an Uplifting Story

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MIKE DUDEK

Illinois Fighting Illini Wide Receiver Mike Dudek told a story late Saturday night about the trouble he had getting into Memorial Stadium. He told a security guard: “hey, I’m on the team,” because the venue worker didn’t immediately believe him.

At first glance, in street clothes, it’s a mistake one might make due to Dudek’s somewhat diminutive frame. However, if you see him up close, with his arm muscles on display, then you know this cat’s a big time a football player.

Dudek’s arms are a major gun show, which then leaves one wondering how this security guard could have made such a mistake.

mike dudek

Mike Dudek missed the last two seasons due to two ACL tears, but he’s in the best shape of his life right now. Teammate Jaylen Dunlap said Dudek is running a 4.3 40-yard dash, and it’s clear after two games that the Naperville product has shaken off any rust that might have accumulated from not playing in a game for 981 days.

His first catch since 2014 was a 16-yard TD pass in the win over Ball State, a game in which he racked up 102 all-purpose yards. His 52-yard punt return late in the game set up the Illini’s game-winning score in the final minutes.

In week two, a very convincing 20-7 win over a heavily favored Western Kentucky team that was riding a nine game winning streak, the Illini football star led the team in catches, receiving yards and targets.

Two years removed, and now two games in and with two wins.

“There’s no better feeling than getting a win,” Dudek said.

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“I know a lot of these guys are my best friends. We’ve been working for nine months now. To come out the underdogs at home and to get the win was pretty special for us.”

Illinois came in as eight point underdogs, and that provided plenty of Illini football team bulletin board material.

“I know some of their players were saying all week that it was a guaranteed win for them, but obviously it wasn’t,” he said.

In week three, Illini football are once again huge underdogs. Vegas has put a whopping 18 point spread on them at South Florida, a nationally ranked team. It will be the second of three straight prime time, national television audience games for Illinois. Mike Dudek says it’s reminiscent of his Neuqua Valley Wildcats days.

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“Kind of brings me back to high school a little bit, even though just being under the lights is a little different. Dark out, a little chillier, but I love it.”

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now and Minute Media. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

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