It wasn't injuries or ineffectiveness that brought his career to an end. It was the side effects of the chemotherapy after his diagnosis with leukemia a year-and-a-half ago that cut Udeze's career short.
On Thursday, the rest of the Vikings team was preparing for the official start of training camp practice this morning. Head coach Brad Childress addressed the Udeze issue, saying that he never gave up, but the pain in his feet was just too much of a burden for the rigors of the NFL. Childress said he spoke with Udeze numerous times over the past two weeks and that the decision came down to whether he could hold up under the strain.
"He made an effort to get back on the field," Childress said. "We went back and looked at it and he had 26 plays through the OTAs trying to get himself back. It was clear he had some pain in his feet."
The condition, called neuropathy, is one of the side effects of chemotherapy and hit Udeze hard – especially considering the top physical conditioning needed to play at a high level in the NFL.
"Chemotherapy does great things for people, like kill cancer," Childress said. "But it kills other things as well. That is one of the side effects. He was just unable to sustain post, get leverage and stick his feet in (the ground) without pain. He's most comfortable in clogs and can tie his shoes, but obviously you need support. It would be great to flip him over and tackle with his feet. It's hard. He's been through a tough battle."
The final chapter of Udeze's career was a sad one, but Childress said Udeze enjoyed his time back with his teammates during the offseason program and gave everything he had – maintaining his trademark smile.
"It was nothing but smiles," Childress said. "His feet felt like cinder blocks. He fell over the bags. For him to get back to the football field, he was all smiles. You can do all the conditioning and weight lifting you want, but his feet betrayed him."
The prayers of all of us at Viking Update are with Udeze in hopes that, while his football career is over, he continues to beat cancer and lead a long and productive life off the field.