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Neuqua Valley's Mike Dudek returns a punt during his team's state semi-final game against Mt. Carmel at Neuqua Valley High School on Saturday, November 17, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media Brian Powers
Coming onto the college recruitment radar as early as last summer by flashing his sub-4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, Neuqua Valley wide receiver Mike Dudek has long been known for his speed.
Being such a vital piece of Neuqua Valley’s offense last fall that averaged 41.6 points a game en route to winning its first 12 games of the 2012 season before bowing out to eventual Class 8A state champion Mount Carmel in a Class 8A state semifinal, Dudek showed he’s more than just raw speed.
On Monday morning, validation for his efforts last fall arrived with receiving an offer from the University of Illinois.
“It was really exciting. It’s kind of shocking to me, too, but I mean, it’s definitely a relief,” he said. “I love it over there at Illinois, so it’s good to have that as my first Big Ten offer.”
Illinois went 2-10 overall and went winless in the Big Ten under first-year coach Tim Beckman in 2012, but Dudek doesn’t seem fazed at all by that.
“What impressed me a lot about the coaching staff is how Coach Beckman was telling me how they’re trying to get a lot of in-state kids and build an in-state sort of powerhouse at Illinois,” he said. “With the hire of Coach (Mike) Bellamy, the new (wide) receiver coach, it’s really a positive for me because I like him a lot and he definitely showed me like where I stand playing-wise and how I’d probably get to play early and stuff. So that’s definitely a positive for me because a big factor for me is definitely playing time and they showed me that I’d have the opportunity to play early.”
Dudek, who has an offer in hand from North Dakota and has taken visits to Indiana and Iowa State, visited Illinois this past weekend and has plans to take an unofficial visit to Wisconsin on March 16 and is hoping to do the same at Michigan State next month.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Dudek caught 46 passes for 991 yards and 14 touchdowns, all three now new program single-season records, and added in four scores on special teams as a junior.
“Definitely, (the 2012 season), I would say (my recruiting) gradually picked up as the season went on and I got more film,” he said. “I can’t thank Dylan (Andrew), our quarterback, enough for throwing me the ball and giving me the opportunity to make plays. So a lot of this is on him, too.”