CHAMPAIGN – Mikey Dudek wants to return to the field as quickly as possible. But he realizes that impatience may be a dangerous characteristic during recovery from a torn ACL.
“I'm always 'What can I do now? What can I do now?' to try and push myself,” Dudek said. “But you got to be careful. You don't want to come back too quick and not come back at 100 percent. My main goal is to get back at 100 percent. Once I do, I think another challenge is going to be getting over the mental barrier of trusting your knee again and getting there.”
Dudek – a Scout.com First-Team Freshman All-American last season after becoming just the sixth Illini to record a 1,000-yard receiving season – suffered a torn ACL during a non-contact drill during an April practice. Team doctors have said Dudek could be back as early as October, near the start of Big Ten play. The sophomore wideout said he hasn't set a firm date for his return. Also, he and the team doctors have not yet fully decided that he will return this season – though it certainly seems likely.
“I'm trying to get back as soon as I can,” Dudek said. “If I get back for this season, then good job. But if I don't, then I'm not going to be mad about it because it is an injury you want to make sure you're 100 percent for because it could affect you in the long run.”
Dudek currently is building up strength in his knee in the weight room and also is doing cardio work on stationary bikes. Doctors have cleared him to run straight and to run and stop quickly. He has not yet been cleared for quick cuts but said that he expects to start lateral work in the next few weeks.
In the meantime, Dudek is watching film and taking in practice from the sidelines, eager to get back on the field but aware that he can't get overzealous. He said he's trying to help his potential fill-ins – junior Dionte Taylor is expected to start, while sophomore Marchie Murdock and freshmen Sam Mays and Desmond Cain also compete for reps – while mentally training for his return.
“It's a lot of watching, taking mental reps,” Dudek said. “Everyone always says take mental reps, but no one really knows how to do it I feel like. That's been a challenge so far, taking mental reps. So I'm making sure I'm getting in watching the film over and over again and definitely helping out the younger guys, the guys who are having challenges.”