EAGAN, Minn. – Kyle Rudolph continues to be humbled by the outpouring of support he received during the Walter Payton Man of the Year Charity Challenge.
The NFL announced Sunday that Rudolph was the winner of the competition, thanks to fans who mentioned his name and #WPMOYChallenge on social media more than any other player between Dec. 6 and Jan. 13. As the winner, Rudolph will receive $25,000 from Nationwide to donate to the charity of his choice, the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.
Rudolph was impressed by the passion of fans to continue voting and promoting the campaign even after the Vikings season ended short of the postseason.
"It would have been easy to continue getting votes with the steam of a playoff run, but the season ended before we all thought it would," Rudolph told Vikings.com. "And yet, Vikings fans still kind of took it as their personal mission, almost as if, 'Well, we can win something. Let's go out and win this for Kyle.' "
As Rudolph sporadically scrolled through mentions on Twitter during the challenge, messages from fans in other markets caught his attention. He specifically noted Bears, Packers or Eagles fans who told the eighth-year tight end that they were touched by the "Dear Kyle" video and his work with the children's hospital and in the community.
"I think that was just as cool as the amount of support we got from Vikings fans who always support us," Rudolph said.
In an interview with Lindsay Rhodes of NFL Total Access Wednesday, Rudolph spoke about the impact of the video that has been viewed more than 46,000 times on YouTube and shared – in the original tweet alone – more than 10,000 times on Twitter.
"Our entertainment department and our PR staff here did an unbelievable job in putting that together, along with my wife, Jordan," Rudolph said. "They went behind my back and surprised me.
"I just thought I was going in for a normal interview, and then I ended up crying, reading letters on camera," he continued. "It was pretty special to be able to read through letters and hear from, especially, patients and their families and how much we've impacted their lives."
Rudolph explained to Rhodes the energy and passion that he and his wife, Jordan, have put into Kyle Rudolph's End Zone at the hospital.
The roughly 3,000-square-foot space offers young patients an escape from the reason they're hospitalized and "just be kids" during a difficult time.
"It's been incredible for us to be able to provide something like this for the patients and also for their families," Rudolph said.
The $25,000 donation will help provide specific programming and activities at the End Zone that the young people can attend, and Rudolph also emphasized that the End Zone will continuously be funded in order to keep the space and its technology as up to date as possible.
In addition to winning the charity challenge, Rudolph remains in the running to be named the Walter Payton Man of the Year. The winner will be announced during NFL Honors which will air on CBS on Feb. 2, the eve of Super Bowl LIII.
Previously, the NFL would narrow down from 32 nominees to three finalists, and that trio of players and their respective charitable efforts would be recognized during Super Bowl week. This year, however, the league is inviting each of the teams' nominees to Atlanta, where their commitment to the community will be highlighted before one player receives the final award.
"So much [attention is often given] to the bad [news], and it's great for people to see the good things that are happening in our game and the good things that guys are doing," Rudolph said.
The Rudolph family doesn't invest the immense time, energy and resources into the community that they do in expectation of any recognition.
If Rudolph was to receive the Walter Payton Man of the Year honor, however, he said it would "mean a great deal."
"We've been given a platform as a professional athlete to do a lot of great things here in our community, and the other 31 nominees do the same thing," Rudolph said. "And then you look back at a lot of the past winners of this award, and the fraternity of men that I would be associated with for the rest of my life would be incredibly special.
"It's an award that is one of the most prestigious awards in our game, and it's because of the high-character men that we have across the NFL and all the great things they're doing with the platforms that we've been given," he added.