Eric Kendricks has been sidelined for the past four games with a calf injury, but his impact off the field has been deeply felt and highly touted.
The Vikings earlier this month announced Kendricks as their nominee for the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. The linebacker’s work with nonprofits like All-Square and Every Meal, along with mentoring youth at the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center, has not gone unnoticed.
In addition to being named the Vikings Community Man of the Year, Kendricks on Wednesday was announced as the Star Tribune's 2020 Sportsperson of the Year.
Star Tribune writer Ben Goessling rolled out a deep-dive feature on Kendricks and his passion for making a difference, an effort that started at a young age. Goessling wrote:
The morning commute to drive her son to school always included a stop at the house down the street, for reasons Yvonne Thagon didn't fully understand.
Her youngest son, Eric Kendricks, asked Thagon to make the stop each day to pick up another boy on the way to Hoover High School in Fresno, [California]. Thagon would pull into the driveway, finding the boy's parents' cars parked out front.
"Why are we taking this kid to school, Eric?" she would ask her son.
"Is there a problem, Mom?" he would reply. "Is there a reason we can't take him to school?"
One day, he told her why he insisted on stopping.
" 'It's because I'd rather know he gets to school in the day than to worry about him being out causing problems in the community,' " Thagon recalled. "I'm like, 'OK, I'll shut up. Thank you for the lesson.' "
View photos of Vikings LB Eric Kendricks through the years participating in community events. Kendricks is the Vikings 2020 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee.
Thagon told Goessling that Kendricks was just "doing what he'd always done" to care for others.
Kendricks now is at home in Minnesota, where the All-Pro linebacker is "the heart of a Vikings defense in transition," Goessling noted.
It's here, in many ways, where he's confirmed his life's work is to try and pack as many people into the car as possible, in hopes of getting them where they're supposed to be.
Kendricks told Goessling that Minneapolis "has given me a lot" since the Vikings drafted him in 2015.
"I just wanna give back, man. My ultimate goal is to give back in the town where I'm from. Fresno is always on my mind, as far as that's concerned," Kendricks said. "But I'm here, and there are awesome organizations all around here. Everyone loves the Vikings here, so it makes it that much easier to give back in the community. People listen. People watch. It's important to me to show, not only the youth in this city but people who follow and support, ways to be [helpful]."
11 International players to compete for NFL practice squad opportunities
Eleven athletes from nine countries will compete for a spot in the 2021 International Player Pathway Program, the NFL announced Wednesday.
The program was established in 2017 and aims to "provide elite international athletes the opportunity to compete at the NFL level, improve their skills and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster."
Aaron Donkor (Germany), Taku Lee (Japan), Yoann Miangue (France), Leonel Misangumukini (Austria), Adedayo Odeleye (United Kingdom), Ayo Oyelola (United Kingdom), Max Pircher (Italy), Sammis Reyes (Chile), Bernhard Seikovits (Austria), Lone Toailoa (New Zealand) and Alfredo Gutierrez (Mexico) will soon begin training in the United States in hopes of being selected for a practice squad position for next season through the International Player Pathway Program.
_One of the NFL's eight divisions, to be chosen at random, will receive the international players selected for the 2021 program. At the conclusion of preseason training camp, each player will be eligible for an international player practice squad exemption with his assigned team. This provides the assigned team an additional practice squad member for the season. _
In 2020, four athletes from the International Player Pathway Program were selected for the four NFC East clubs.
According to the NFL, notable program participants currently on NFL active rosters include Patriots fullback Jakob Johnson (Germany), Eagles tackle Jordan Mailata (Australia) and Panthers defensive end Efe Obada (U.K.).