I have a confession to make.
I was never a big a fan of Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph until this season.
Was he a dependable pass catcher?
Sure. Through his 8 years, the Notre Dame product has 346 receptions, 41 touchdowns and two Pro Bowl appearances.
Did he go above and beyond in the community?
Absolutely. Especially when he and his wife Jordan donated $250,000 of their own money to establish the Kyle Rudolph’s End Zone, a therapeutic play space for kids and their families at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.
So, what was my problem with the former 2011 second round draft choice??
I thought played soft.
At 6-6 and 265 pounds, Rudolph had the ability to be more than just a big target. He had the size and strength to be a dominating blocker. But, let’s just say he was something less and many thought the former pro bowlers time was running out.
In a offseason where Rudolph was rumored to be trade bait and salary cap casualty, it got worse for Rudolph when the team drafted a tight end out of Alabama.
Then, out of nowhere came the contract.
Instead of moving Rudolph, or just plain moving on, the Vikes went “all-in”, rewarding Kyle with a four-year, $36 million dollar contract in June. The Vikings guaranteed $16 million in what was most likely the final contract of Rudolph’s football career.
There it was. If ever any player was handed a ticket to put it in cruise control it was Kyle Rudolph. And, if you just judged by the statistics from the Vikings’ first six games of the 2019 regular season, you may have assumed that Rudolph was indeed mailing it in.
In the first six games Rudolph was targeted just 11 times, had only 9 catches and zero touchdowns. Ouch.
Before the season started the Vikings brought in Gary Kubiak as Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor to make the 2019 Minnesota Viking offense more dominant. Kubiak brought his former Denver Bronco teammate Rick Dennison to serve as the team’s Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator. Kubiak and Dennison were tasked with giving life to the Vikings run game and they did it by installing an “Outside Zone” run scheme that had been perfected in Denver during the 1990’s, and the new scheme required every player to learn a new style of blocking, most importantly at the tight end position.
While Rudolph’s numbers dwindled in the beginning of the season and opposing defenses focused on the rookie from Alabama, Kyle never hung his head, complained or said a bad word. Instead, Rudolph finally put his hand on the ground and started to move bodies.
At the same time the catches started to come. In the next six games Rudolph was targeted 30 times, recording 24 catches for 229-yards and scored six touchdowns. The best part? Not only was there no let-up in Rudolph’s blocking, but his influence and leadership came shining through. Irv Smith, the rookie from Alabama, started showing-up down field, knocking opponents on their butts!
The big story this week has been about Kyle giving the gloves he wore to catch the game-winning touchdown in the playoff win against the Saints to a “member of the media”, who requested them for a charitable contribution. The Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee, normally donates to charities and didn’t second guess his honorable gift towards a good cause.
However, the gloves wounded up on eBay where they were sold to a guy in New Jersey for a $375 and NOT used for a charity piece used in an auction.
This time Rudolph did complain, voicing his displeasure over the gloves scam on social media. Turns out the guy in Jersey who bought the gloves is a lifelong Vikings fan by the name of Jason King. King said once receives the gloves, he’ll donate them to Kyle Rudolph’s End Zone.
Nearly $14,000 has been raised, and you can bet the glove scam story will be told during the Vikings vs. 49ers playoff game on Saturday, meaning more donations should be on the way.
You know what? I always did like that Rudolph.