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DIESELMAN
06-05-2006, 12:43 PM
If Mike Kudla weren't a football player, he could compete as a powerlifter. But this rookie linebacker nearly died a few years ago after a bout with mono. A rebuilt body and a new outlook on life have left him hopeful of making the team.

http://media.scout.com/Media/Image/25/257353.jpg

PITTSBURGH -- As a junior-high student in Ohio, Mike Kudla would gather 200-pound rocks from a pile a quarter-mile from his home and bring them back in a wheelbarrow to decorate his family's yard.
By the time he was a sophomore in high school, he had outgrown his third weight set.

As a junior, Kudla dabbled in bodybuilding contests and as a senior he was was one of the most sought after football players in the country.

A year later he was playing in the national championship game on an Ohio State defensive line loaded with four future NFL draft picks. He could bench-press in excess of 500 pounds and squat the campus. If Atlas needed a break from holding up the world, Mike Kudla was available.

But what took endless hours and most of his life to build unraveled in days that first year in college.

This Pittsburgh Steelers' rookie free-agent linebacker was diagnosed with a mild case of mononucleosis near the end of his freshman season at Ohio State in 2002. He was able to play in the Fiesta Bowl, but shortly thereafter developed a viral infection called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a disorder that causes the body to attack its own mucous membranes. It involves a serious reaction to medicine and can cause high fever, serious eye damage, bleeding and eventually death. By the doctors' best guess, the mononucleosis weakened his body to the point where the infection could move in.

Kudla lost 52 pounds in a matter of weeks and, as his condition worsened, he developed painful sores in his throat as blood seeped from his eyes, ears and nose. Portions of his skin fell off.

"I've seen pictures and its not a good sight," Kudla said.

To heal the tissue in his throat he had to gargle a solution of Novocain. Doctors said the pain, on a scale of one to 10, was a 12.

There's not too much I really remember," Kudla said. "I was pretty much out of it the entire time and pretty much heavily medicated so there's not a whole lot I remember.

"Actually, I am kind of glad I don't remember because it was pretty bad."

It became so bad a priest was called to administer last rites.

"They really didn't think I was going to survive," Kudla said.

Kudla spent two weeks in the Ohio State Medical Center and squared off with death. A large dose of medicine eventually saved his life, but the doctors thought that he would be blind and mute and on dialysis for the rest of his life. Instead, Kudla participated in spring drills four months later. Six months after that he recovered a fumble for a touchdown in an overtime win against Purdue.

"It was a process," Kudla said. "Normal daily stuff didn't start coming around until a month and a half, like eating normal food and drinking. Everyday life had to be started over for me. It was a tough time."

But it's over and the future is unwritten.

"It was an eye-opener," Kudla said. "You realize that you are blessed to be here. You look at things that you normally take for granted like your family and friends and it puts it all in perspective."

Kudla is thankful. The fact he was not drafted, and missed minicamp with a hamstring injury, and then missed coaching sessions because of NCAA guidelines, has not diminished his zest.

"My situation was touch and go for a while there, and once you've been through something like that, it makes you appreciate everything you have," he said. "Maybe I'm more serious now, but things you hardly think about mean a lot more. I almost lost all of this."

Kudla re-dedicated himself and stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 265 pounds. He broke his own OSU bench-press record a few months ago by lifting 610 pounds. At the combine in February he tied the meet record by bench-pressing 225 pounds 45 times.

On the field, Kudla led his team in sacks as a senior with 9.5. He was one of the star players in the Fiesta Bowl with three sacks of Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. His freshman health problems, a shoulder injury his junior year, and a pre-draft hamstring problem all contributed to his undrafted status, but he's being viewed as a potential reserve inside and outside linebacker by the Steelers.

"This is the place I really fit in," he said. "I really like the coaches and I really like the system so that's really why I am glad to be here. There couldn't be a better place for me right now."

By: Mark Kaboly
For SteelCityInsiders.com
Date: Jun 5, 2006

Haiku_Dirtt
06-05-2006, 02:22 PM
I just keep shaking my head. The Steeler scouts must have a checklist they use to eliminate draft prospects - and primadonna is at the top.

LISTENING Santonio!!!!!!!!

Uh Mom? How many more boulders do you want? If Kudla has any younger brothers then please email me. I have a summer job for you.

Oh. And anyone who sacks Brady Quinn three times in a game borders on sainthood in my book.

Livinginthe past
06-05-2006, 02:45 PM
Best of luck to Kudla - its a miracle that he has progressed to the stage of even being able to be part of an NFL squad.

In some ways he is a lucky man - he has had a real education in how important each day of your life really is - something that is hard to appreciate when things come too easy.

NM

TP43
06-05-2006, 03:16 PM
I hope he makes the team. He sounds like a guy that could have success in our system, especially after surviving an ordeal like that.

SteelerFanInCA
06-05-2006, 05:06 PM
Wow, what an amazing story. How can you not pull for this guy to make the team? Hopefully all works out for him in the end.

RoethlisBURGHer
06-05-2006, 05:09 PM
Mike Kudla was one of my facorite Buckeyes,I think he'll make the team and be a beast on special teams and hopefully develop into a huge playmaker on the defense.

tony hipchest
06-05-2006, 05:27 PM
i still cant see why he wasnt drafted. does he have poor technique? is he dumb?

Livinginthe past
06-05-2006, 05:29 PM
On the field, Kudla led his team in sacks as a senior with 9.5. He was one of the star players in the Fiesta Bowl with three sacks of Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. His freshman health problems, a shoulder injury his junior year, and a pre-draft hamstring problem all contributed to his undrafted status, but he's being viewed as a potential reserve inside and outside linebacker by the Steelers.



I guess those are the reasons they are listing - he sounds huge for an OLB!

NM

Suitanim
06-05-2006, 05:39 PM
He played his HS ball about 20 miles from where I'm at, and he was a beast even back then (Just like Chris Wells, the Akron area's newest Buckeye Phenom).

This is a guy who had some problems snowball on him early, but he turned the corner last year. He's solid.

tony hipchest
06-05-2006, 05:47 PM
Originally Posted by DIESELMAN
. His freshman health problems, a shoulder injury his junior year, and a pre-draft hamstring problem all contributed to his undrafted status.

these are the only knocks ive heard or read on him. it seems like the steelers had him targetted all along but just knew he would slip through the cracks. they jumped on him quick. the fact that he had 9.5 sacks is phenominal, especially for a big time defensive program last year. he played big in big games. sure he had alot of talent around him, but that is the same situation he enters in pittsburgh. pittsburgh entered the draft 1 roster spot shy for their linebackers. i say he has an EXCELLENT shot to make the team.

Black@Gold Forever32
06-05-2006, 06:01 PM
I like Kudla alot. I also had mono before so I know what he went through. Its not fun let me tell you. I think he will be the rookie free agent to suprise and make the team this year and follow in the footsteps of other rookie free agents to make the Steelers in recent years.

Willie Parker in 2004
Nate Washington in 2005
Mike Kudla in 2006

Dirt53
06-06-2006, 08:11 PM
I like him as an ILB it'll be interesting to see if they leave him outside.

Stlrs4Life
06-06-2006, 09:00 PM
Neat story. Really like this kid even though he was a Buckeye. Didn't help that he also was overshadowed by Hawk and Carpenter also.

CowherLover
06-07-2006, 08:31 AM
The "experts" at the Combine also said there was concern, I guess you could say, about the size of his lower-body being disproportionate to his upper body. I typically don't make predictions , but if he stays healthy, there is NO WAY he doesn't make the team. On a side note, I think it's interesting that people are already labeling Santonio. I don't like reading about anyone associated with the Steelers organization in the police blotter either, but primadonna?! He showboated a couple of times going into the endzone but if you've never watched an interview with this guy then you should. I can't ever remember a time where he's ever exhibited behavior to deserve that label. He doesn't deserve the disrespect already being thrown his way, IMHO.

Santonio4
06-07-2006, 09:45 AM
I hope he makes the team because he is versitile. he can play OLB and DE.

CowherLover
06-07-2006, 10:13 AM
Yeah, the other thing they dinged him for was he is considered a tweener, he has the Vrabel-like qualities that will make him a success in this league and I hope it will be with the Steelers.