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Neuqua Valley's Mike Dudek dives for a catch during the Warriors' state semifinal game against Mount Carmel on Nov. 17, 2012. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

The old adage says you only get one chance to make a good first impression.
 
Receiving his first BCS offer from Illinois back on March 4, Neuqua Valley junior wide receiver Mike Dudek spoke of the excitement that came with getting his first offer from a Big Ten program.
 
Just a day shy of a month after getting that offer, Dudek committed Wednesday to Tim Beckman and the Fighting Illini.
 
“I took visits to a lot of places and I went to Illinois and I just felt like it was right for me,” he said on Wednesday night. “I like all the coaches there, the facilities, the fan base, everything. Being in-state, in relation to my house, everything was a perfect fit for me.”  
 
Upon getting the offer from the Fighting Illini last month, he discussed new wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy selling him on the prospect of playing as a freshman and contributing early on as the program looks to gain some much-needed traction.
 
With the program losing six wide receivers after the 2013 season, ample playing time should be up for grabs for the speedy Dudek, who can run the 40-yard dash in the sub 4.4s.  
 
With Beckman focusing on trying to keep Illinois kids at home to play their college ball instead of going out-of-state, Dudek becomes the second Illinois player in Beckman’s 2014 recruiting class, joining Lincoln-Way East offensive lineman Nick Allegretti.

The 5-11, 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.
 
Dudek chose Illinois, which went 2-10 under its first-year coach Beckman in 2012, over interest from Wisconsin, Vanderbilt and Michigan State.

“Wisconsin and Vanderbilt wanted me to come into camp and run my 40 and then they were going to offer me. But I was just [ready to commit to Illinois]. I didn’t want to wait any longer. I knew where I wanted to go.”

He’ll be the biggest holdover from an offense that averaged 41.6 points a game last year en route to winning the first 12 games of the 2012 season before bowing out to eventual Class 8A state champion Mount Carmel in the semifinal round.

With his recruiting decision now behind him, he can put all his focus into trying to help the program win two more games than it did in 2012.

“Now that recruiting is over, it’s definitely more focusing on working out with my grades and my team,” Dudek said. “Just trying to go win a state title now and putting in all the work I can to do that.”

 

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99-yd kickoff return TD by Mike Dudek

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