ACL injuries suck. And for a rising star like Illinois wide receiver Mikey Dudek, it sucks even worse.
Dudek, a soon-to-be sophomore from Naperville, tore the ACL in his right knee during a spring practice on Wednesday.
One year ago, this news wouldn’t be causing nearly the reaction it is today.
That’s because a year ago, Mikey Dudek was an early enrollee freshman from Neuqua Valley whose only scholarship offers besides Illinois were from Illinois State and North Dakota.
After a promising spring, Dudek had a ridiculous freshman season and became arguably the Fighting Illini’s best player. And without question their most dynamic player on offense.
A 5’11” reception-machine with the unavoidable Wes Welker and Julian Edelman comparisons, Dudek finished with 1,038 yards in his first season.
Just imagine what he would have done at Illinois State or North Dakota?
In his second Big Ten game, Dudek had 200 yards against Purdue. Later in the year, he dropped 115 yards on Penn State en route to being named a Freshman All-American.
Obviously, most freshmen don’t put up these numbers. Most don’t even get the chance to.
Illinois football, however, isn’t like most programs.
With his ultra-productive freshman year and three more seasons to play, Mikey Dudek became a virtual lock to break every Illinois career receiving record. Those are all currently held by David Williams, a two-time All-American from the 1983 Rose Bowl team.
Now, this is assuming Dudek’s stats wouldn’t improve from his freshman year, which is highly unlikely. And now, the only reason Dudek might not break all of Williams’ records is because of an ACL injury in spring practice.
Here’s a look at how their numbers compare:
Illini head coach Tim Beckman said his star wideout could return by October, but that would be a speedy six-month recovery. That seems optimistic, but remember this is the under-recruited kid who enrolled early and then tore up the Big Ten.
We’ll find out soon enough. Maybe he’ll end up taking a medical redshirt year.
Either way, those records are Mikey Dudek’s to break. If he doesn’t do it, there’s no doubt it was because of the injury he suffered in April of 2015.
I think I've settled here: if anyone can return from a torn ACL by October 1st, it's that damn kid.
— Robert (@ALionEye) April 8, 2015
(Image from Fighting Illini Athletics)