Udeze recovering with upbeat attitude

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 23, 2008 - 10:12 PM

Three weeks after a bone marrow transplant from his brother to treat leukemia, the Vikings lineman is gaining strength and hopes to return to the team.

Kenechi Udeze, the Vikings defensive end who was diagnosed with leukemia and recently had a bone marrow transplant from his brother, said that everything is "working out just fine."

"I've been out of the hospital for about three weeks now," he said. "There are a couple things that kind of give you that impression. One is a biopsy, which is just them taking a piece of your bone marrow out of your back and just seeing what's being produced at your bone marrow."

Udeze said that his "brother's stem cells are producing [new blood cells] now in my body, and it's just going to take a while for me to build my immunity up -- so it's been nothing but goodness since we got out and I'm just happy to be out of the hospital.

"I feel good; you just take a nap during the day. They said that's pretty normal, especially with the medication that you take. But other than that, I've got to wear a mask when I leave the house."

He needs to regain his strength. "Yeah, I mean, I've got my strength. I can't just jump back into a workout just yet because I have to wear masks for three months out of the hospital, so it's almost been a month -- and that's to prevent like a fungus that you can get if you don't wear a mask when you go outside."

He is confident he will play football with the Vikings again.

"Oh yeah, I'm very sure that everything is going to work out just fine," he said. "I appreciate that, I didn't even realize it until, just out of nowhere, we've been receiving a lot of support from everybody and everywhere.

"... Everything looks good, I told them. I said, 'Be 100 percent honest,' and they tell me nothing but good news. It's just more or less me dealing with the medication that I have to take, because a lot of the medication can make my feet swell or kind of have me a little nauseated. But slowly but surely, I'll be off the medicine and living a normal life again.

"It won't be much longer."

I've had a special relationship with Udeze because he played his college football for my close personal friend Pete Carroll at Southern California.

So it is good news, not only for a good football player but for a classy young man who is fighting a tough battle that he has a good chance to win.

Frerotte good addition

This is the 34th year Vikings quarterback coach Kevin Rogers has been in coaching, including two years at Ohio State in 1977-78 under Woody Hayes.

I recall Hayes, after one of the many victories to which he had led the Buckeyes, telling me one day that he had the best quarterback coach in the country in Rogers.

So when Rogers talks, I listen. And Rogers is on record saying that backup Vikings quarterback Gus Frerotte is one of the smartest and the best with whom he has been involved.

Frerotte got the opportunity to start Saturday against the Steelers in place of the injured Tarvaris Jackson, and the Vikings didn't lose a step with the 37-year-old veteran in the lineup. He was 13-for-19 for 133 yards, threw one interception led two scoring drives before leaving early in the third quarter.

"[Frerotte's] got a great wealth of knowledge, and he can still spin it for a guy his age," Rogers said. "I mean, he's really got great arm strength and great command of the ball. I think his accuracy and his experience and his arm strength, they're all real positive about it. Obviously, he brings a wealth of knowledge to the game."

Rogers said he was really excited last April when the Vikings signed Frerotte, who had backed up Daunte Culpepper in his first stint with the Vikings in 2003-04.

"I thought it was a great get for us, and I think he's made us better," Rogers said. "He's got a different skill set in terms of his mobility and things like that, but certainly he's capable of doing anything that we do. He can negotiate all the throws, he can get it down the field, he can chuck it down -- he can do all the things that we're required to do in this offense."

Rogers said Frerotte has a great arm.

"A very unique arm for being his age, being 15 years in the league, to be able to spin it like he can," he said. "He's still got great velocity and can negotiate the ball well over 60 yards down the field.

"... He's a positive in terms of leadership with the other guys, too. He's also a coach on the field for me. He helps T-Jack find out where the bones are buried on certain plays; he's a great help."

Former Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan worked with Frerotte when he was the offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins and when he later became coach of the St. Louis Rams. His offensive coordinator in St. Louis, Al Saunders, insisted on bringing Trent Green, whom he had coached at Kansas City, to back up Marc Bulger.

So the Vikings got a big break, landing the best backup quarterback in the league. And Frerotte will make Jackson a much better quarterback, just as he did for Culpepper when he had his best years.

Jottings

Some members of the media were questioning the quality of the recruiting class that Gophers football coach Tim Brewster was bringing in, especially whether a lot of them would get in school. All but three players are with the squad, and while they haven't played a game yet, the coaches are convinced they have a number of outstanding players.

The Gophers had 45 players visit the campus and, surprisingly, 31 signed.

Brewster said that Eric Small, a 300-plus-pound junior defensive lineman, will be used some as a tight end.

Mike Rallis, the Edina linebacker who walked on for the Gophers and turned down several other scholarships, has been a standout in the preseason workouts, and Brewster said he will play this year with no thoughts of redshirting the freshman. ...Two other Gophers freshmen, linebacker Ryan Grant of Eden Prairie and former Cretin-Derham Hall running back Shady Salamon, are scheduled to play, too, because of how well they have done in practice, and not be redshirted. ... Andre Taté, formerly of Henry Sibley, was given a try at linebacker but has been moved back to his high school position of running back.

Brewster's oldest son, Eric, a receiver who was on the Northern Arizona football squad last year, has transferred to Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he is expected to be a starter this season.

The Jordan Legion Post No. 3 baseball team took second place in the Central Plains Regional Division II tournament last weekend in Pratt, Kan. This was the fourth consecutive year that Jordan played in the regional, and it won the past three.

T.J. Oakes, son of Gophers pitching coach Todd Oakes, has been Jordan's ace. Including last season as a junior and this summer with the Legion team, T.J. had a 15-3 record and 0.88 ERA in 123 innings of pitching. He allowed only 57 hits and 18 runs and struck out 155.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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