On Feb. 11, 2008, Kenechi Udeze had the worst day of his life. Vikings football was the last thing on his mind. Udeze had been diagnosed with a form of leukemia.
Udeze was placed on the non-football injury list for the 2008 season so that he would not have to forfeit a paycheck just because he had cancer. He was lucky his brother was the perfect donor for his bone marrow transplant.
He has been fighting a battle against leukemia for almost an entire year, but this week Udeze said, “I’m coming back, and I’m going to be better than I was before.”
Udeze was the first round draft pick in 2004, and had a pretty solid rookie season. The next two years Udeze could have fit into the "bust" category, but in 2007 he had a career high in tackles and sacks.
He was undoubtedly the starter in 2007, before being diagnosed with leukemia. Since then the Vikings have acquired Jared Allen, who, barring any extreme incident, will be the starter in 2009 on one side of the line.
Udeze will likely have to beat out Ray Edwards and Brian Robinson if he wants to return to the starting lineup in 2009. If he does come back with just as much talent, or even more, this could be the best position battle on the defensive side of the ball in 2009.
Ray Edwards totaled five sacks and 54 tackles last season on an improved defensive line, while Udeze slightly outperformed Edwards in 2007. It is unlikely he can just show up and have his job back.
Udeze has been preparing for the 2009 season already by working out at his alma mater, USC, recently. He has also said he is taking classes at USC so he can graduate at the end of the semester.
The best news for Udeze is that he seems to be winning his fight against leukemia, and he apparently has the upper hand in the biggest battle in his life. Even if Udeze loses the starting job to Ray Edwards, he will probably be fine knowing he was one of the lucky ones who is surviving leukemia.
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