Mikey Dudek: Back from the sidelines

Mikey Dudek: Back from the sidelines

URBANA — Illinois receiver Mikey Dudek doesn't want to slow down. Or hold back. Or ease up. They all go against his nature.

But he has to. For the sake of his knees. And for the sake of the team.

"Sitting out is horrible," Dudek said. "I'm always itching to get out there When they tell me to slow it down, it hurts. But I've got to listen to them."

Receivers coach Andrew Hayes-Stoker wasn't at Illinois in 2014, when Dudek starred as a freshman for Tim Beckman's team. But the coach has seen film.

"I've seen that he can make plays," Hayes-Stoker said. "He's one of those guys who has the ability to finish. He's a rare athlete with great speed, and he can separate. He's got that knack."

The schedule for Dudek during training camp is to be full-go one day and have less involvement the next.

"Mikey's working through the kinks of camp right now," Hayes-Stoker said. "Not being on the field for two years, he's doing a great job."

Dudek looked like his freshman self during Wednesday's team period. He made a leaping catch for a score.

"We want him to build some confidence," Hayes-Stoker said. "The fact that he hasn't been out there in quite some time, we want him to get some familiarity with running, getting sore again. His feet may hurt. His toes may hurt. All the small muscles that the only way you can train them is in the game or in competition situations like a scrimmage."

Hayes-Stoker can tell that Dudek has put in the work. No question.

"There's nobody that's going to be more dedicated or harder working than Mikey," Hayes-Stoker said. "He's passionate about football. He's played at a high level before, and he's eager to get back there."

What are the coaches hoping to get out of him?

"Quite a bit," Hayes-Stoker said. "I don't want to rush him to where he's not ready. I want him to grow into the role he's going to have. As much as he can handle this year."

Dudek wants to be a leader.

"The more time he is on the field making plays, the leadership role will grow," Hayes-Stoker said. "He'll feel more confident in telling guys 'Hey, you need to do this.' He doesn't want to overstep his bounds. He's a respectful man in that way."

After missing two seasons because of injuries, Dudek could still have three seasons of eligibility left.

"Realistically, maybe two," Hayes-Stoker said. "If he has the kind of years you want him to have, he's moving on."

The offense has struggled at times during training camp. With and without Dudek.

"When something bad would happen, it would create a domino effect," Dudek said.

Dudek has been pleased with the work of the other receivers.

"I'm comfortable with anybody in our room," he said. "Whoever is out there, we're confident that they are going to get the job done."

He has performed well in early workouts, showing the good hands, speed and athleticism that made him a success.

"I'm feeling good," Dudek said. "It's good to get out there and start competing again, push my teammates, push myself and try to make an impact on the team this year."

The opener is Sept. 2 against Ball State.

"It's in the back on my head," Dudek said. "Ever since I got hurt last year, I've been thinking about it. But we really pride ourselves on one day at time, focus on the now."

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Moonpie wrote on August 12, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Like most cheerleading pieces from Lazy Gazoo/Illini PR Central Sports, this could be condensed to:

The little guy was once good.

Years ago.

He got hurt.

He works hard to get better

We hope he'll be as good as he once was, but no one knows if that will happen.