Archive for the Kenechi Udeze Category

Kenechi Udeze: A Warrior in Every Sense of the Word

To anyone who has ever played on a football field, they consider it equivalent to a battle zone. Once you reach the pros, the sport becomes more like war.

To one man, a war is nothing compared to what he has had to face during the past year and a half. I’m talking about Kenechi Udeze, a former defensive end of the Minnesota Vikings.

For those of you not familiar with Udeze, he was a 6’3″, 281-pound monster during his playing days. Currently, he is just 26 years old.

When he played, he was a member of one of the NFL’s premier run defenses, and was a top performer on the defensive unit. Why is he no longer playing?

On February 11, 2008, Udeze was diagnosed with leukemia, a form of cancer which causes white blood cells to grow at rapid rates inside of bone marrow.

These new cells are harmful by themselves, but also damage and kill the original, healthy cells.

Kenechi’s specific type of the disease is acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

This caused him to miss the entire 2008 NFL season, but he vowed to be back, saying, “You know what? I’ll be back next year.” For a while, it looked like he would be.

When Udeze completed his rigorous chemotherapy treatment, he trained and practiced with the team, giving all that he had to continue his career.

It turns out that the side effects of both the cancer and the chemo were preventing him from performing at his highest level, which forced him to retire.

He still made a remarkable recovery, and his cancer is currently dormant. His progress was aided by his brother, Thomas Barnes, who served as the donor in Udeze’s bone marrow transplant.

Kenechi Udeze was born on March 5, 1983 in Los Angeles, CA. He would live there all his life, and attended Vernum Dei High School which is located in L.A.

He was a force on the football team, among other sports, and was named a Super Prep All-American, Super Prep All-Farwest, Prep Star All-Western, and Tom Lemming All-West as a senior in 1999, when he played the line on both sides of the ball.

Other awards and distinctions that he earned that year were Long Beach Press-Telegram Best in the West Honorable Mention, Orange County Register Fab 15 Honorable Mention, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100, Las Vegas Sun Super 11 Honorable Mention, Cal-Hi Sports All-State Small Schools First Team, All-CIF Division XI First Team, Los Angeles Times All-Central City First Team, and All-Camino Real League Defensive MVP.

Obviously, Udeze was heavily recruited coming out of high school. Ultimately, he chose to stay nearby to home, accepting the offer from Southern California.

In his first year at USC, Kenechi was redshirted.

In 2001, as a freshman, he was named a starter right off the bat, earning spots on the Sporting News Freshman All-Pac-10 and All-American Teams.

Udeze was an instrumental part of a dominant Trojans’ defense in 2002, having an excellent season en route to an appearance on the Second Team All-Pac-10 lineup.

In 2003, he was a member and leader of USC’s split-national championship team, when they were named the AP National Champions after a decisive victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The LSU Tigers were crowned the BCS Champs after a win over Oklahoma.

That year, BKU (an acronym for his nickname, “Big Kenechi Udeze”) was selected as First Team All-Pac-10, and even a Consensus All-American.

He was also a Ted Hendricks Award finalist, which is a prize given to the nation’s top defensive end each year.

His junior year in college would be his last. He finished his collegiate career with 135 tackles, 28 sacks (which remain a school best), 5 passes defensed, 1 interception, 14 forced fumbles, and 3 recoveries to go with it. He also blocked 2 kicks.

While at USC, head coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Nick Holt would impact him greatly. Steve Sarkisian, who at the time was the team’s quarterbacks coach and later offensive coordinator, would one day become an important person in Kenechi’s life.

Udeze would go on to enter the 2004 NFL Draft, and was selected in the first round, 20th overall, by the Minnesota Vikings.

Kenechi wasted no time making a name for himself. In his rookie year of 2004, he had 36 tackles, 5 sacks, a pass defensed, one fumble forced and another recovered.

In 2005, Udeze was only able to play in the first three games due to damage to the cartilage in his knee that caused him to be placed on injured reserve. He had five tackles and a sack in the three games he played.

2006 was a better year for Udeze though, as he was able to play in all 16 games and start 15 of them. He had 29 tackles and a fumble recovery on the year.

In 2007, Kenechi’s fourth and final year, he had what was probably his best season.

He posted 47 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 pass broken up, a fumble forced, and another recovered.

Udeze finished his career with 117 tackles, 11 sacks, 2 passes defensed, a pair of forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries.

After missing all of 2008 and training and practicing in the spring and summer of ’09, Udeze finally called it quits.

On July 29, 2009, the day that the Vikings announced his retirement, head coach Brad Childress revealed that his chemotherapy and the effects of the leukemia caused pain and weakness in his feet, causing him to lose balance, which is key in football.

Although Kenechi may one day overcome this problem, chances of his returning to the football are slim to none.

Coach Childress was quoted saying, “He hates to let it go. And I hate for him to let it go, but it’s really best for him.”

For the Vikes, No. 95 was one of their finest players, as he contributed to one of the most successful defenses in the league while he played.

While it is certain that Udeze was very good as a pro and made his mark on the league, I think that he had the potential to be a Pro Bowl type player and one of the best at his position, making it just that much more unfortunate that his career had to be cut short.

Although Kenechi can no longer help his team by sacking the opposing quarterbacks and tackling the other teams star running back for a big loss, he has still found a way to assist other players in doing this. As of this season, Udeze has been named the University of Washington’s assistant strength and conditioning coach for all football players.

Huskies’ head coach Steve Sarkisian, who I mentioned earlier, was the one who offered him the job. Udeze will now be able to prepare the Washington players for the difficulties and training that await them in the NFL.

Udeze has also promoted a “Marrowthon,” in which soccer teams located in the twin cities were given the opportunity to run in a race to raise money for the National Marrow Donor Program Organization.

His story, although unfortunate, is one of inspiration and hope. He told Brad Childress that he treated his illness as a mere “common cold” and that it would not get in the way of his goals.

While this did end up being his downfall in the end, Udeze never gave up fighting and never lost hope. He tried to make it back to the NFL, but was unsuccessful. And yet, what he has managed to accomplish is so much more than anything he could have done in with football.

The courage, strength, and valiance that Kenechi Udeze has exhibited since being diagnosed with leukemia is absolutely incredible and should never be forgotten. In my opinion, he is a warrior, in every sense of the word.

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Kenechi Udeze: Saying Goodbye Is Never Easy.

The Minnesota Vikings have announced the retirement of defensive end Kenechi Udeze, ending his bid for a comeback this year with the club.

In February of 2008, Udeze was diagnosed with leukemia. And despite receiving a bone marrow transplant and being able, initially, to participate in OTAs, Udeze’s decision was mainly due to side effects associated with the treatment which hindered his progress.

The first-round draft pick by the Vikings was enjoying what was building up to be a rather impressive campaign with the club. Udeze recorded 117 tackles and 11 sacks in 47 starts as a Viking.

His current bout with leukemia, which is in remission, was not the first time in his career he has faced adversity—nor was it ever a reason to quit.

Udeze battled weight problems before entering USC’s program coming out of high schoola challenge he overcame.

In 2003, Udeze returned to action for the Trojans after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee only to be a part of the 2004 Rose Bowl team.

Udeze will never be known as a quitterthat much is for certain.

While playing for USC in 2001, the redshirt freshman garnered 35 tackles (nine for loss) and four sacks in only 10 games started. Udeze earned a spot on The Sporting News Freshman All-American Second Team and The Sporting News All-Pac 10 First Team, as well as USC’s Co-Lifter Award.

Udeze enjoyed a very successful 2002 campaign as well.

He was named Defensive Lineman of the Year, was an All-Pac 10 Second Team selection, and shared the Pac-10 lead with six forced fumbles, which was a USC record.

In total, Udeze boasted 135 tackles (51 for a loss) and 28 sacksa school record as wellin addition to 14 forced fumbles as a Trojan.

As with any severe illness, people and players often find themselves having to make difficult decisions that are often never truly understood by others.

In Udeze’s case, his penchant for never quitting anything only amplifies the obvious disheartening nature this had to yield.

In football, the opportunity to come out of retirement is always a reality, and there is never a true way of knowing what the future holds for Udeze going forwarda notion that holds a bit of optimism in the football realm for himself, for his fans, and the Minnesota Vikings.

The most positive aspect of all of this is that Udeze feels healthy, his leukemia is in remission, and the road to recovery, albeit daunting, is ready for the taking.

And you can surely bet Udeze, and the spirit that has become synonymous with him and his endeavors, will be ready for the challenge with his best foot forward at all times.

Here’s to a speedy recovery and a positive outcome to an otherwise unfortunate turn of events for Udeze and his family.


Farewell Kenechi Udeze, You Will Always Be In Our Hearts

Here’s an article that I dedicate to the 26-year-old Kenechi Udeze. Kenechi fought to make his journy back to the NFL, but the battle against leukemia kept it short.

He’s a tough man that deserves everyone’s love and prayers.

I’ll start off with his career:

Udeze attended the University of Southern California, and was a three-year starter and helped his team to a 2004 Rose Bowl victory as a junior. He finished his college career with 135 tackles; 51 of them for a loss, 28 sacks; which was a school record, 14 forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one interception, five pass deflections, and two blocked kicks.

Then came the NFL 2004 Draft where Udeze was drafted by the Vikings out of USC in the first round with the 20th overall selection.

During his rookie season with the Vikings, he started 15 games and recorded 36 tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble, and one pass deflected.

In 2005 Udeze was injured in the Vikings third game of the season with cartilage damage in his left knee, which kept him out the rest of the year. Udeze finished the season with three games started, five tackles, and one sack.

In 2006 he was once again the starter at left defensive end, playing 16 games, starting 15 and recorded 29 tackles and no sacks.

In 2007, again he played in all 16 games, with 15 starts, and had 47 tackles and five sacks.

On February 11, 2008, it was announced that Udeze was diagnosed by doctors with a form of lukemia. Udeze revealed that his leukemia was in a state of remission. Udeze would get a bone marrow transplant from his brother. He said at the time that he plans to play football again someday, but says health is his No. 1 priority for now.

Udeze returned to the Metrodome as an honorary captain for a game against the Green Bay Packers on November 9, 2008, again stating he would return. 

Then yesterday, Kenechi announced his retirement to a short and difficult career.

That was all the time young Kenechi Udeze had to his short career. It was sad to hear the news that he would have to retire.

Kenechi didn’t deserve this and hopefully won’t have a difficult life because of this. If there’s any way that he could receive help, it would be from us.

Always keep him in mind and in prayers. He needs all the help from everyone and I wish the best of luck to him.

I will always keep Kenechi in my heart and in my prayers everyday. I hope everyone will to.

Good luck and God bless you Kenechi. Enjoy life and always remember that your fans are here for you.


Vikings’ Kenechi Udeze Retires: A Sad Yet Inspiring Story Gets Lost in Shuffle

Kenechi Udeze, a former first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2004, has decided to retire.

Players retire from the NFL every year, and a lot of the time we don’t even notice except for maybe a passing story.

However, this retirement is as heartbreaking as you’ll ever find.

Udeze was forced to sit out the 2008 season after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. However, Udeze decided to return to the field after a year of rehab, bone marrow transplants, and other treatments.

“I’d be lying if I said it was easy,” Udeze said back in late May at Minnesota’s OTA’s. “There was never an easy point. The first time I went back to USC and started working out with the fellas, I fell.”

“I took two steps and I fell. I took small steps at first and, to where I am now, I can’t complain.”

At the time, Udeze was fresh off a bone marrow transplant and a biopsy. He showed incredible strength and willpower to simply be standing, let alone out on a football field.

“That’s where they go in and take a little piece of your bone marrow and it hurts the day after,” Udeze said. “Like I said, I’ve seen children deal with what I’m dealing with. And if they can deal with it, then I shouldn’t make any complaints.”

Udeze never complained about his condition. He never just sat down, gave up, and asked, “Why me? Why me?” like some would do. And you know what; I don’t think I could blame anyone who would. Leukemia is a terrible disease to deal with, and could certainly be enough to break a man down.

But Udeze was a fighter. He was determined to beat his illness and make his way back onto the football field where he felt he belonged, and he did just that.

That is, until Wednesday, July 29th when he decided that he simply could no longer pursue an NFL career any longer.

He has not been available for comment, although I’m sure with the decision of Brett Favre conquering the news, and regarding the same team, not many people are beating down his door for comment.

However, while this is a sad day for Udeze in terms of his football career, he can always appreciate that he was able to play in the NFL, no matter how short his time, and that he has received a new lease on life.

With the recent death of great men like Jim Johnson and Harry Kalas, that new lease on life is certainly a far richer reward than any NFL contract.


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Battles of Mankato: Vikings Training Camp 2009

With time winding down until the beginning of Vikings training camp August 1st at Minnesota State in Mankato, now would seem to be the perfect time to take a look at the position battles that will be resolved heading in camp.

The Vikes find themselves standing on a razor’s edge at the moment.

The team has locked up a solid core of a run dominated offense with All-Star Adrian Peterson and one the largest lines in the NFL. Their defense is one of the most stout in the NFL and is the best at stopping the run behind both Kevin and Pat Williams at the Tackle Positions.

With only one or two more pieces needed this training camp may be one of the most important ones the Vikings have ever held, as its results will determine if the franchise will progress towards contention of a NFC title and possibly a Superbowl or continued mediocrity

So let’s take a look shall we?