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Draft Diaries: Rudolph Was On Way to Reds Game When Vikings Tabbed Him

Leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, Vikings Entertainment Network is sharing draft-day memories from recent years and decades ago. Some might have had more memorable experiences than others, but all have stories to tell.

EAGAN, Minn. — Kyle Rudolph has quite the athletic pedigree, as he is an accomplished NFL player and was a hoops star on the hardwood in high school.

But back almost a decade ago, another sport was on his mind as he watched the 2011 NFL Draft on television.

Rudolph had just completed a strong career at Notre Dame, where he had 90 catches for 1,032 yards and eight scores in 29 career games.

Yet he was a tad frustrated as the first round came and went and he didn't hear his name called.

"It was the second year, I believe, that they moved it from a Saturday-Sunday draft, to a Thursday-Friday-Saturday draft," Rudolph told Vikings.com. "I remember watching on Thursday, thinking I'm going somewhere late in the night.

"But then not being drafted and being extremely frustrated I wasn't drafted … having to go to sleep and wake up and wait all day the next day to hear my name called on Friday night [was frustrating]," Rudolph added.

Rudolph eagerly awaited the start of the second round, expecting to be one of the first few names called. When he wasn't, he thought about a different sport and wanted a nice night out with his family.

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"It got to the point where we were a few picks in on Friday, and I thought I was going to go early on Friday and didn't go," said Rudolph, who grew up near Cincinnati. "So, after about five or six picks — I was sitting at the house with my family — the Reds were playing that night in town, and I was like, 'Let's just go to the Reds game.'

"We are rallying the family and are getting ready to leave the house to go down to the Reds game, and my phone rang with a Minnesota area code," Rudolph added.

The number was a surprise for the tight end, who said he had minimal interactions with the Vikings in the pre-draft process.

"Minnesota was a team that I had not formally met with," Rudolph said. "I really hadn't talked to anyone outside of the tight ends coach, who was Jimmie Johnson at the time, in those real informal meetings at the combine. For me, I never thought Minnesota was going to be a possibility."

Rudolph is now entering his 10th NFL season — all of which have come in Purple.

He has 425 catches (fifth in franchise history, second among tight ends behind Steve Jordan), and is 10th all-time with 4,154 receiving yards. He is fifth in team history with 47 career touchdown catches, a record among Vikings tight ends.

"It's funny how things work out and now I wouldn't have wanted things to go any other way," said Rudolph, who has been the Vikings Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee for the past three years. "Being here for coming up on 10 years, having three kids and establishing our family here, I'm glad the Vikings took me at No. 43."

Oh yeah, Rudolph said his family still stuck to their revised plan that he came up with after he hung up with Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman.

"We did end up going to the Reds game after I got off the phone with Rick and Coach Leslie Frazier," Rudolph said with a laugh.

The Reds scored twice in the bottom of the ninth but couldn't complete their rally in a 7-6 loss to the Marlins.

But it was a night Rudolph and his family will never forget.

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