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Wide Receiver Mike Dudek Tears ACL in Spring Practice

The best football player on Illinois last season tore his ACL in practice. Cancel football.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Rising Sophomore wide receiver Mike Dudek tore his ACL Wednesday morning in a non-contact drill during spring practice. He will undergo surgery immediately and the team is hopeful that he will be able to return by October.

The team released the news of Dudek's injury in a press release. Tim Beckman spoke briefly on the effect the injury has had on Dudek and his family, as well as the team's priority to ensure a safe return to football.

"This is very disappointing for Mikey, his family and our football program," Beckman said. "He'll have the knee surgically repaired as soon as possible and the doctors feel like he could return to the field in October. Knowing how hard Mikey works, our biggest challenge will be to keep him on pace and not let him push it too hard and too fast."

I am rarely at a loss for words, but I'm not sure how to properly describe how stupid the world is right now. Dudek was not only the best wide receiver or skill player, he was the best overall player for Illinois last season. He represented hope for the future as several promising young players struggled throughout the year. He, Geronimo Allison, and Malik Turner were set up to be one of the better wide receiving trios at Illinois in recent memory, if Turner progresses as expected.

Here are just some of the accolades and records Dudek pulled down last season, via his bio on the Fighting Illini website, because there are literally too many for me to list them all and still get this article out in a timely fashion:

First-team Freshman All-American by ... True-Freshman All-American by and 247Sports ... Second-team All-Big Ten ... Voted Illinois' Offensive Newcomer of the Year ... Led the Big Ten in receptions (50) and receiving yards (716) during conference play ... Led FBS freshmen in receiving yards per game (79.8) ... Set Illinois' single-season freshman records for receiving yards (1,038) and receptions (76), and tied the touchdown record (6) ... Ranked fifth in FBS in fourth-quarter receiving yards with 354 yards on 23 catches ... Ranked 33rd in FBS, first among freshmen, and third in the B1G in receiving yards per game (79.8) ... Ranked 29th in FBS, second among freshmen, and third in the Big Ten in receiving yards (1,038) ... Ranked third in the Big Ten in receptions per game (5.8).

Regardless of whether he gets back in October or later in the season, having a major injury like this is frightening at best. Dudek was on pace to have a chance at school records for receiving yardage and touchdowns-- he damn well better still have that chance. Missing four games and playing himself back into shape early in the conference schedule would be a decent best-case scenario. Six months would be a pretty quick return from an ACL tear.

As much as this sucks, Dudek is very obviously one of the toughest kids on the team. Perhaps not Ted Karras claim-to-not-use-anesthetic-during-an-ACL-surgery tough, but he's going to be okay. We'll have more on Dudek's injury and its effect on the team over the next few days/weeks/months.

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