Battling leukemia, Vikings DE Udeze retires at 26

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Kenechi Udeze has retired, ending a remarkable comeback from leukemia.

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He says his leukemia is still in remission. But he’s still dealing with side effects from treatment of the disease and is unable to play.

Minnesota’s first-round draft pick in 2004 out of USC, Udeze was a starter for four years and tied for the team lead with five sacks in 2007.

He was diagnosed in February 2008 with the disease, which is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Udeze missed all of last season while dealing with his condition.

After a marrow transplant more than a year ago, Udeze was on the field for practices this spring and summer. He said at minicamp in May he was “feeling pretty good,” but acknowledged the challenge of the comeback.

“I’d be lying if I said it was easy,” Udeze told the Star Tribune after a June workout. “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.”

Udeze received the Vikings’ Ed Block Courage Award last season.