Team Unveils **_“Dear Kyle” Video_**; Winner to be Announced at NFL Honors Night Before Super Bowl LIII
Eagan, Minn. (December 6, 2018) – The Minnesota Vikings announced today TE Kyle Rudolph is the team's nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award Presented by Nationwide. Considered one of the league's most prestigious honors, the award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. Each of the league's 32 nominees were announced today.
Since entering the league in 2011, Rudolph has made a point of being invested in the Minneapolis/St. Paul community and has become even more involved since he and his wife, Jordan, opened Kyle Rudolph's End Zone at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital last December. Built as a getaway for kids and families going through treatments, the End Zone allows children to engage in therapeutic play, experience a sense of normalcy and "just be a kid and play without fears," as Ashley Baltzell, whose son Cooper suffers from Hirschsprungs Disease, explained in a letter thanking Kyle. The 2,500-square foot space houses an indoor basketball hoop, an area with a TV and video games, a digital sports simulator, a kitchen, a lounge area with table games, a wall for patients with autism spectrum disorder and a quiet space for families.
"Both Jordan and I are extremely passionate about kids and anything that we can do to help kids be just that," said Rudolph. "They're not in the circumstances they're in for a reason. These diseases and cancers that they're fighting don't discriminate. They didn't choose to have their childhood taken away from them…I think the biggest thing that we try to do is provide these kids with an opportunity to be kids.
"It truly is an honor to represent the Vikings as the Walter Payton Man of the Year. There's so many guys that have represented this organization so well as our past nominees and it truly is my pleasure to carry on as this year's nominee."
Since the opening of Kyle Rudolph's End Zone last winter, many kids look forward to going to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, choosing to go early or even stay late, making sure to stop by the End Zone to relax either before or after treatment. For patients with conditions that prohibit them from leaving their room, the Rudolphs make personal visits to their rooms. Rudolph's year-round commitment allows him to develop deep and meaningful relationships with patients and their families. Not only has he had the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of the children and their families in the hospital, but the nurses and doctors have also witnessed him connect and go-the-extra-mile for patients in the hospital.
View photos of Kyle Rudolph accepting the nomination for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award with his family.
Along with his community work at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, Rudolph also shows support to those serving in the military. As the NFL's first ambassador for the United Heroes League, he has hosted families at practice and games, given away Polaris Off-Road Vehicles, and held football camps worldwide to over a hundred military kids.
"In addition to having a successful career on the field and rewriting franchise records for tight ends, Kyle brightens the lives of others at dark times," said Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf. "It is clear that the gifts of his and Jordan's time, financial resources and vision come directly from their heart, and we have enjoyed seeing them provide respite for people in need. We are proud to honor Kyle as the 2018 Vikings Community Man of the Year and believe he deserves to win the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award."
Letters were gathered thanking Rudolph for the impact his has left on their lives and Vikings Entertainment Network captured different nurses, patients, and families reading their letters. To download the Vikings Entertainment Network's "Dear Kyle" video, click here. Please credit VEN if you intend to use the video publicly. For photos of the Vikings Man of the Year announcement, click here.
This year Rudolph is ranked in the top 10 among tight ends in the NFC in four categories, including YAC, total yards, receptions for first down and total receptions. Last week he made his 100th career start and 61st consecutive, the longest active streak among all tight ends.
As a nominee, Rudolph will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal through the end of the season in recognition of his accomplishments on and off the field. New this year, all 32 team winners will be highlighted as finalists and recognized for their important work during the weekend leading up to Super Bowl LIII. The 2018 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime awards special to air nationally on February 2, the eve of Super Bowl LIII, on CBS. NFL Honors will be at Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
Five hundred thousand dollars will be donated in the name of the 2018 winner, $250,000 of which will be donated to expand Character Playbook, the NFL and United Way's digital character education program. An additional donation of $250,000 will be made to the charity of the winner's choice. All other 31 nominees will receive a donation of $50,000 in their name to expand Character Playbook and an additional donation of up to $50,000 to their charity of choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation, Nationwide and United Way Worldwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide's 4th annual Charity Challenge, a social media campaign designed to support and promote team nominees. Fans can vote by using #WPMOYChallenge on Twitter with their favorite nominee's last name somewhere in the post between December 6 and January 13. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, courtesy of Nationwide. Hashtag information and official rules can be found at nfl.com/manoftheyear.
More information about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award can be found at http://www.nfl.com/manoftheyear.