“Just one of those freak accidents,” said Illinois Football head coach Lovie Smith.
Mike Dudek is ruled out for the season after suffering a season-ending knee injury during Illinois’ season-opening win over Kent State on Saturday.
“You can’t allow adversity to define your life,” Dudek wrote in a tweet. “You must take the good with the bad and continue to move forward. I am forever greatful for all the support I have received these past 5 years. #NoBadDays Thank you Illini Nation.”
Dudek started his career with the Illini back in 2014, making an immediate impact with the team. He finished his freshman campaign with 76 catches, six receiving touchdowns, and over 1,000 yards receiving. Unfortunately, that would be his last full season.
ACL injuries forced Dudek to watch both the 2015 and ‘16 seasons from the sideline, as well as missing a handful of games last year.
“It’s kind of hard to put it into words,” Smith said. “Mike Dudek has worked so hard throughout his career here... There’s a reason why Mike is popular. He does everything right. There’s no better team player.”
Dudek racked up numerous accolades his freshman year, including a Freshman First-Team All-American selection by ESPN and Scout.com, Second-Team All-Big Ten nominee, and led the FBS freshmen in receiving yards per game (79.8).
“He’s come back from tough situations before,” Smith said, “and he’ll do it again.”
Poor guy. Really feel for him. Seems like he has as many knee injuries as Hummel and Marve combined. https://t.co/e3jCcs7VDZ— Hammer & Rails (@HammerAndRails) September 3, 2018
First Class guy and tremendous Football player! #18 https://t.co/Z0YdbE8Uqh— Rod Smith (@IlliniRSmith) September 3, 2018
Not matter what. Colton fell in love with @IlliniFootball because of @MDFlash_7. And has expanded that love to all the players. Mike was a inspiration in getting Colton through tough times. And for that he will always be #1 in our hearts. #ColtonCourage #Illini— Jason Rahn (@CPbloggerdad) September 3, 2018