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Andrew Sendejo Donation Fuels Rice's Nutritional Impact

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Andrew Sendejo's NFL career has seen him journey from undrafted free agent to special teams standout to a starting safety on one of the league's best defenses.

But Sendejo hasn't forgotten where he came from.

Sendejo displayed his passion for his roots in April when he made a donation to the Rice University football program. Rice football players now have access to the Andrew V. Sendejo Nutrition Center, which is housed inside Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center, a multimillion complex that opened in August.

"When I was in college, I wish I took nutrition more seriously," Sendejo said. "Now, I do take it seriously. I've always been a big weight room guy, so it kind of hit home for me and was something I care about.

"It was a no brainer," Sendejo added.

Sendejo announced the donation in early April when he returned to the Houston campus for Rice's spring game and alumni golf fundraiser.

The 29-year-old said it was exciting to see the Owls new complex in person. He had donated to the program in the past but jumped at the opportunity to do something bigger.

"It was the first time I had seen the new facility and the nutrition room," Sendejo said. "The nutrition room is where they have all the protein shakes and other stuff they take.

"It's nice … obviously I wish we had something like that when I was there," Sendejo added. "It's good for the guys there and good for the program. It's good to see your alma mater raising the bar and stepping up with a new facility."

Sendejo, one of the top safeties in Owls history, still occasionally chats with Rice Head Coach David Bailiff. 

"We still keep in touch," Sendejo said. "He was always a really good player's coach and treats everyone like his kid.

"He runs a classy organization," Sendejo added.

That was evident in the weeks after Sendejo's donation, when he received a handwritten thank-you note from every player on Rice's roster.

"That's a testament to the head coach and how he runs the organization," Sendejo said. "I opened my mailbox, and there was a stack of envelopes from Rice and I was confused.

"I went through all of them and graded who had the best handwriting," Sendejo added with a laugh. "It was a kicker, by no surprise."

That honor went to Owls junior kicker Haden Tobola. Sendejo tweeted out a thank you to the program once he read through the letters.

Sendejo said he didn't make the donation for publicity purposes, instead saying he hopes to encourage a culture of giving within the football program.

"Maybe it helps encourage young alums that can afford to give back to the program, and any alumni that can give back … it shows other guys that it's OK to give back," Sendejo said. "If you're blessed enough to get a scholarship and go there, it's kind of your duty to help give back and carry it forward."

Sendejo's visit to Rice occurred just before he returned to Winter Park for the start of voluntary offseason workouts with the Vikings.

Sendejo, who started 14 games in 2016 but missed both games against Chicago, finished fifth on the team with 72 total tackles (according to coaches tally).

He added two interceptions, five passes defensed, two fumble recoveries and 0.5 sacks.

Sendejo said he returned to Minnesota rested up and ready for 2017.

"You haven't seen a lot of these guys in a long time, so it's good to be back," Sendejo said. "It's good to see all your boys and start working out with them."

But the memories of a disappointing 2016 season, in which the Vikings started 5-0 and missed the playoffs, still linger.

"After the season, I stayed up here for a week and just reflected on it," said Sendejo, who lives in Austin, Texas in the offseason. "But you have to hurry up and get over that; you can't let it linger. 

"Obviously you think about it, but you've kind of moved on and are ready to start a clean slate and get rolling on the next year," Sendejo added.

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