EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Kyle Rudolph is the Minnesota Vikings nominee for the WALTER PAYTON NFL MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD,it was announced today. Representing the best of the NFL's commitment to philanthropy and community impact, Rudolph was selected as the Vikings Man of the Year and is now eligible to win the national award. Considered one of the League's most prestigious honors, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field as well as excellence on the field.
"It's very humbling. You look at the list of guys that are past winners, and it's a great honor," Rudolph said of the honor. "But it starts with the top down in this organization with what the Wilf family does, not only here in the Twin Cities, but all over the country.
"Then you look at the Minnesota Vikings Foundation and what they do … Coach Zimmer and his foundation … I'm just trying to keep up with those guys," Rudolph added. "They set a great example for us as players on how to be men in this community."
Three of the 32 total nominees will be selected as finalists for the national award, renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back WALTER PAYTON. Finalists will be announced in January 2018. The winner will be announced in Minneapolis at NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on Feb. 3, the night before Super Bowl LII, from 7-9 p.m (CT) on NBC.
The seventh-year tight end from Cincinnati, Ohio, is one of the most community-active players in the NFL. From a young age, Rudolph grew up watching his brother Casey, deal with and ultimately beat neuroblastoma, an aggressive cancer that attacks infants. Rudolph and his family, inspired by Casey's battle and their experience in Children's Hospitals, volunteered at Cincinnati Children's Hospital throughout Kyle's childhood.
The motivation to help kids in need has been a driving force in his work with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. Rudolph and his wife, Jordan, and twin girls, Andersyn and Finley, have made countless appearances and are still forming charitable efforts for the patients and families of children being treated at the hospital.
"We have our reasons for doing things with charities, and everyone knows my story about my younger brother and how children's hospital charities have always been something we've been really passionate about all the way through," Rudolph said. "Your perspective changes a lot once you have your own kids and you're in there. For us, each and every day, we're so grateful that we have two healthy babies. I don't know if I would be strong like the parents and patients that are in there that we visit."
"We are incredibly proud to nominate Kyle for the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award," said Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf. "Since Kyle joined the team almost seven years ago, he and his wife, Jordan, have consistently looked for ways to make a positive impact on the Minneapolis-St. Paul community, particularly in the lives of children. Kyle is an extraordinary representative of the Vikings organization, and it is our honor to recognize him for this prestigious award."
Starting in Week 14, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year trophy silhouette will appear in uniform elements to further recognize past award winners and current nominees. Kyle will wear a Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season, in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field.
A total of $500,000 will be donated in the name of the 2017 winner, with $250,000 to be donated to the winner's charity of choice and $250,000 to be donated in his name to expand Character Playbook across the country.
The two other finalists will each receive a $100,000 donation to their charity of choice and a $100,000 donation in their names to expand Character Playbook. All other 29 nominees will receive a $50,000 donation to their charity of choice and an additional $50,000 donation in their name to expand Character Playbook. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and United Way Worldwide.
The NFL announced last month a Super Bowl Ticket Giveaway, a new initiative this season to surprise fans across the country with an invitation to attend Super Bowl LII in Minnesota. As a Man of the Year nominee, Rudolph received two Super Bowl LII tickets to give away to community heroes. Kyle decided to gift the pair of tickets to the parents of Emma Wheeler, a young girl who recently lost her battle with HLH (Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis).
Kyle visited with Emma and her family at the Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital on Nov. 14 as a part of his annual Thanksgiving meal celebration on what ended up being her final day. The experience left a lasting impression on Rudolph, who surprised Emma's parents with a pair of tickets to Super Bowl LII in Emma's honor. Rudolph presented the tickets when family and friends visited Winter Park the Saturday after Emma's passing.
To learn more about Kyle's visit with the Wheeler family, click here.
To learn more about Kyle's nomination, visit NFL.com/manoftheyear.