|No. 94, 95|
|Date of birth:||March 5, 1983|
|Place of birth:||Los Angeles, CA|
|Height:||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight:||285 lb (129 kg)|
|High school:||Verbum Dei High School
Los Angeles, California
|NFL draft:||2004 / Round: 1 / Pick: 20|
|Career highlights and awards|
Career NFL statistics as of 2007
|Stats at NFL.com|
|Stats at pro-football-reference.com|
Kenechi Nduka Udeze (/ /; born March 5, 1983) is a former American college and professional football player who was a defensive end in the National Football League (NFL) for four seasons during the early 2000s. He played college football for the University of Southern California (USC), and earned consensus All-American honors. The Minnesota Vikings picked Udeze in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft, but was forced to retire in 2008 after he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He is currently an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Southern California.
Udeze was born in Los Angeles, CA. He attended Verbum Dei High School, a Jesuit-affiliated Roman Catholic school in Los Angeles, where he played high school football for the Verbum Dei Eagles and competed in track as a shot putter (top-throw of 56-7 or 17.34m).
While attending the University of Southern California, Udeze played for coach Pete Carroll's USC Trojans football team from 2001 to 2003. He 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 (a school record), 14 forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one interception, five pass deflections, and two blocked kicks. As a junior in 2003, he was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection, and was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American.
Udeze was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round (twentieth overall pick) of the 2004 NFL Draft. During his rookie season with the Vikings, he started 15 games and recorded 36 tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble, and one pass deflected. As a second year pro, 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 quarterback 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. The following year he again playing in all 16 games, with 15 starts, and had 47 tackles and five sacks.
Illness and retirement
On February 11, 2008, it was announced that Udeze was diagnosed by doctors with a form of leukemia: acute lymphoblastic leukemia. KMSP-TV (Ch. 9) also reported that Udeze was at Fairview Southdale Hospital undergoing tests and that he was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester the week before. Udeze revealed that his acute leukemia is in a state of remission. Udeze will get a bone marrow transplant from his brother. He says he plans to play football again someday, but says health is his No. 1 priority for now.
The Vikings placed Udeze on the non-football injury list and eventually injured reserve in July 2008, ending his season. 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. "You know what? I'll be back next year," Udeze told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Udeze was able to get back into good enough condition to return to the Vikings for 2009 pre-season training, reaching the physical form he was in before his illness. He took 26 snaps during a Vikings mini-camp but struggled with peripheral neuropathy in his feet, a result of his chemotherapy. The chemotherapy-induced neuropathy caused numbness that kept him from being able to plant firmly and create any burst up the field after the snap. Finding himself unable to move at the level he was used to, Udeze decided to retire and announced his decision on July 29, 2009.
Former USC assistant coach Steve Sarkisian, who became head coach of the Washington Huskies, hired Udeze as an assistant strength and conditioning coach, and also working with the defensive line. He also works heavily with charities that help raise money for cancer research.
In 2015, Udeze returned to his alma mater, University of Southern California, to work as an assistant strength and conditioning coach, rejoining former Washington coaches Steve Sarkisian and Ivan Lewis.
- Udeze ends comeback try, Associated Press, July 30, 2009, Accessed May 15, 2010.
- "Reports: Vikings' Udeze has leukemia". StarTribune.com. Retrieved 2008-02-12.[dead link]
- Great news for Kenechi Udeze
- Jensen, Sean (2008-11-09). "Vikings' Udeze: 'I'll be back next year'". St. Paul Pioneer Press (MediaNews Group). Archived from the original on 2008-11-09. Retrieved 2008-11-09.
- The Graduates, USC Trojans, May 12, 2010, Accessed May 15, 2010.
- Judd Zulgad, Ex-Viking Kenechi Udeze keeps busy in fight against cancer, Star Tribune, March 13, 2010, Accessed May 15, 2010.
- Pitt assistant strength coach's battle with cancer inspires players