Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illini Reeling after Dudek Will Miss Season with Another Knee Injury

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Illini Reeling after Dudek Will Miss Season with Another Knee Injury

Article excerpt

CHAMPAIGN, ILL. * The Illini football program had the wind knocked out of it Friday when coach Lovie Smith somberly said that for the second straight season receiver Mike Dudek will have season- ending knee surgery.

Dudek was injured last Saturday in a noncontact drill, just as he was last April 8 during spring practice.

Dudek was at practice Friday, wearing shoulder pads and an orange jersey over blue warmup pants. He stood on the field with teammates for about an hour, then exited with a noticeable limp to the training room. He was not available to the media after practice.

His return after missing all of the 2015 season was considered a major boost to the Illini offense since Dudek was named a freshman All-American following a stellar 2014 season in which he broke Illinois' school record for receiving yards by a freshman.

Smith announced the news after practice ended on a blustery, sometimes snowy afternoon.

"Michael Dudek, significant knee injury, will have season-ending surgery next week," Smith said.

"It was tough," the coach said about Dudek getting the grim injury news. "He worked himself pretty hard to get back out there and was pretty excited about the season. But he's come back before. He knows the routine and he'll be back."

Smith said he has gotten to know Dudek, who on April 1 showed off his new muscles and bulk at the conclusion of the team's first spring practice. Dudek was all smiles at the time and said he was thrilled to be back in action.

"He takes what he does seriously," Smith said. "You can tell he's a great competitor, a great guy who is liked by his teammates. Everyone is feeling for him, but they know him too and it's not like he's feeling sorry for himself."

Fellow wideout Justin Hardee also missed last season with an injury and he, Dudek and running back Dre Brown became workout partners rehabbing with eyes on the 2016 season. …

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