EAGAN, Minn. — Kyle Rudolph made it to the end zone more than any tight end in Vikings history.
Now, he's made it to the wall of Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
The Vikings added an image of Rudolph — after he caught the first Vikings touchdown at U.S. Bank Stadium (from Teddy Bridgewater in the debut preseason game against the Chargers in 2016) — beside the door to the tight ends meeting room.
Rudolph became the first Vikings player to have worked inside TCO Performance Center honored on the wall outside a position meeting room.
The image joined Vikings Ring of Honor tight end Steve Jordan ahead of Rudolph returning to Minnesota with his wife Jordan and their four children, his parents Dan and Jamie, brother Casey and sister Kori to officially retire as a Viking.
Former Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, who teamed with Rudolph from 2011 when the tight end was drafted in the second round until retiring in 2016, said it was an "honor and privilege" to introduce Rudolph at the press conference Thursday morning.
"You could tell by the way he worked, how diligent he was, how much he cared about his teammates, the people in the building, that he was just different," Greenway said. "And it was an honor for me, as a veteran that time, to help show him the ropes on community giveback, outreach. What it's like to talk to the community and really interact and be a part of it. He did that and then some, times 10.
"There are few athletes who come through communities that make an impact like the way Kyle, Jordan and the family have made," Greenway added. "And it's truly special to watch him as a big-brother type figure for him, just to watch and be so proud of all the things he's accomplished on the field, off the field, in the community. Truly amazing."
Rudolph and the draft class of 2011 did not participate in a full offseason program because of a lockout that was resolved in time for training camp. Greenway, who had been drafted by Minnesota in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, bridged the gap. An eventual three-time Vikings Community Man of the Year (2014-16) mentoring another (2017-19).
"He was the first person to take me under his wing – not only on the football field but, as he mentioned, in the community – teaching me what it means to be a man, to represent this organization far more than on this football field," Rudolph said. "So, Chad, I greatly appreciate everything you've done for me and for my career.
"I'm filled with a mixture of emotions as I stand up here today because I never really got this far in my dreams. I never really envisioned what the end would be like," Rudolph continued. "And today, I officially get to retire as a Minnesota Viking. Closing the chapter on a journey that has meant everything to me. From the moment I put on the purple and gold, I knew I was a part of something special. The Minnesota Vikings are not just a team; they're a family. Together, we've laughed, we've cried, we've triumphed, and we've faced adversity."
View the best photos of tight end Kyle Rudolph during his time with the Vikings.
Sure, there are games and moments to remember — and probably a few to forget. How couldn't there be when a player spends 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings?
Rudolph reached milestones and records on the field, helping Minnesota make the playoffs in 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2019. He caught the winning touchdown from Kirk Cousins in overtime at New Orleans as the Vikings upset the Saints and silenced the Superdome.
As news of Rudolph's retirement from playing football began to circulate, people asked about his favorite moment. His answer circles back to that playoff game a few blocks from Canal Street and the French Quarter. He was in the team meeting when former Head Coach Mike Zimmer began laying out the ways the Vikings could win in the Big Easy, even if it wasn't going to be easy.
"The reason why I pick it has nothing to do with catching the actual game-winning touchdown, but ultimately what ensued thereafter, leaving the field, walking through the tunnel, going to the locker room," Rudolph said. "It was one of those games where you finish the regular season and go into the playoffs, and at that point, your season can end at any time.
"Really, no one outside this building believed we had a chance, but every player or coach, staff member believed in us, and they bought in, so that Sunday afternoon, after overtime in the locker room, it was kind of just the culmination of everybody's hard work and all the effort that everyone put in," Rudolph added. "I happened to the person in position to make a play in the game. It was so much fun to be able to celebrate with everyone at that time."
Becoming a Vikings Legend
While the transition is recent, Rudolph has previously observed and appreciated the relationship between the team and its former players.
"To have an organization that places such an onus on bringing guys that have been here, that have worn these colors, that this organization means so much to, you always feel like you're welcomed with open arms to come back and to be around the guys, to be around the building," Rudolph said. "Talking to guys across the league, that's not always the case. It's really a testament to this organization, the way the Wilf family does things."
View the top photos of Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph from the 2019 season.
So yes, it's true, he'll forever be remembered as a Viking — and for great reasons.
A second-round pick whose first game was against the Chargers (in San Diego on Sept. 11, 2011), Rudolph emerged from recording one reception over the course of his first two games to add 452 more across the next 138 games.
He ranks sixth in receptions and receiving touchdowns (48), and his 4,488 receiving yards are 11th in team history (second among tight ends).
The 48 receiving touchdowns are the most by a Vikings tight end, and the 453 receptions rank second among Vikings tight ends behind Jordan.
During Rudolph's time with the Vikings (2011-20), he ranked eighth among tight ends in receptions, 11th in receiving yards and tied for third with receiving touchdowns. Among all players, Rudolph ranked 39th in receptions, 64th in receiving yards and tied for 20th with receiving touchdowns.
Rudolph on Thursday credited "hundreds" of people for helping him along the way and expressed his gratitude to the Wilf family for its "unparalleled" leadership and commitment to excellence, former General Manager Rick Spielman for drafting him and Vikings Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski for work behind the scenes that kept so many of Rudolph's teammates together for so long.
"I was adamant about staying here. It was important to me. Free agency was never appealing to me during those 10 years," Rudolph told Vikings.com in a separate interview earlier this summer. "I felt like we always had a really good chance at winning that first championship here. And to play 12 years in the NFL, get to live out a childhood dream, play a game for a living, to get compensated handsomely for it that sets me up for the rest of my life to do whatever I want – those are all things I wouldn't trade for the world.
"Unfortunately for me, there was only one thing that I couldn't accomplish, and it was winning a championship," he added. "I knew what that would mean to this state, and that was always my only goal. I signed my second contract here after my third year. Had gone to a Pro Bowl, had been in the playoffs, had done everything. From that point on, there was only one goal each year, and that was to do whatever I could personally to help my team go win a championship. I hope Vikings fans, when they look back – and most of the time it's going to be parents, as I was just outside [at a Vikings training camp practice] and all the kids were like, 'You're my parents' favorite player' now."
Rudolph is at peace with his decision to retire and excited for the future.
"I asked my older three [children] … 'Do they still want to go watch Dad play on Sundays? Or do they want Dad to be around more?' And all three of them, especially my son, he was like, 'I want you to start coming to my games now,' " Rudolph said. "And that's all I need to hear."
Rudolph's four children — twin daughters Andersyn and Finley, son Henry and almost 2-year-old son Crosby will be able to gain a broader understanding of Dad's impact.
The twins, who are in first grade now, remember Minnesota—and asked Dad if the dragon on the player entry tunnel "breathes fire again," but Henry turned 2 following the 2020 season when fans and families were not allowed at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"He knows I played for the Vikings, but he definitely doesn't remember U.S. Bank Stadium that last year," Rudolph said. "But we flew back on Delta, and so many Minnesota people were on the flight, and whether it was when everyone was getting on the plane or throughout the flight, so many people just kept coming up to me and saying 'hi' and 'thank you' and 'we're big fans' and 'we miss you in Minnesota.'
"At the time, my daughters are sitting there next to me, and they're like, 'Dad, why do all these people like you? Why do they keep saying hi?' And it's those reminders when we come back to Minnesota," he added. "I said it when I left here: No matter where my life takes me, Minnesota will always be home. We try to get back here as much as we possibly can. We love spending our summers here. You will not find me anywhere else in the world June and July than right here in Minnesota, and it's because of the people, it's because of the community, and it's very important for Jordan and I to continue to serve this community even though we're not here all the time."
Ramping up philanthropic efforts
There's no chance Rudolph's philanthropic efforts are ending. In fact, they're ramping up.
The three-time Vikings Community Man of the Year has partnered with former Minnesota Wild wing Jason Zucker on alltroo.com, which is also joining forces with the Minnesota Vikings Foundation to expand philanthropic efforts.
Vikings Legend Kyle Rudolph visited University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital and was surprised with a retirement party.
Alltroo's purpose is to "grow the charitable giving industry by offering amazing experiences — and amplifying the impact we can make together." Rudolph considers the effort "his next chapter."
"Throughout my time here, impacting the community was always extremely important to me. Whether it be University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital, Starkey, Best Christmas Ever, Boys & Girls Clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters, All Square," Rudolph said. "Our focus was predominantly with the [University of Minnesota Masonic] Children's Hospital. Vikings fans and people in the State of Minnesota supported everything Jordan and I ever did in the community.
"Alltroo gives you the opportunity to support your favorite players – AND you have a chance at winning a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Rudolph added. "We like to look at it as, it's a win-win. We can help these athletes who have these foundations or want to raise money for a foundation. It's not easy. It's a lot of work, it's a lot of time, and it costs a lot of money to raise money. We can be an asset to them and raise the money for them by working hand-in-hand, leveraging their platform to reach their audience, and then their audience can win. Because at the end of the day, a fan's going to win some sort of a VIP experience."
Beyond the philanthropic efforts, Rudolph is co-hosting FOX Football Sunday for FOX Sports Radio and is also broadcasting a few college football games for Peacock this year.
View photos of tight end Kyle Rudolph who supported the community in many ways during his time with the Vikings.
He said he really appreciates the opportunity to stay "an arm's length away from the game."
"I feel like the game of football changes so quickly, and if you were to remove yourself for a few years from the game of football, who knows where life can take you? If I get back in the game, I'm around the game some way, shape or form, TV is a great way for me to maintain so many of the relationships that – that's what you miss most when you're not in the locker room anymore, are the people," Rudolph said. "For me, when I'm able to be in a production meeting or watch a practice or see a bunch of guys down on the field pregame before a call, that fills my bucket. That fills that joy of the game of football I've had since I was 5 years old.
"This was my first August since I was 5 years old that I didn't go to training camp. Training camp's always been a part of my life, football's always been a part of my life," he added. "So for me, I knew it wasn't realistic to just close the door on my playing career and walk away from football in general. And I feel like TV is a great way to [stay] a part of it."
Vikings Man of the Year nominee, Kyle Rudolph, teamed up with a local Boys and Girls Club in a "Man of the Year Community Huddle" event as a continuation of the NFL's "Huddle for 100."
A goal central to Rudolph in the broadcasting world is to provide a player's perspective to better illustrate the challenges of a particular assignment for the audience.
"I think at times people can be incredibly critical of us as players, and they don't know how hard it is – whatever that guy's doing or whatever that guy's going through," Rudolph said. "I felt like some of my biggest allies in the media were people I was comfortable enough to talk to and provide them with background, what actually was going on, and it made them better at their job. For me, I hope that's how players and coaches, GMs, I hope that's how they feel when they talk to me. I hope they're willing to give me information that allows me to do my job, to provide a clear picture of not only now what I see but what I know."
View photos of Kyle Rudolph accepting the nomination for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award with his family.
Rudolph kind of laughed, thinking about the general thoughts of his former Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis toward media. Weis remains one of the most significant influences on Rudolph's life.
"I came from a world where you didn't tell the media anything. 'Media were bad.' And I feel like as I evolved as a player, I got older, I got more mature, I realized that the media has a job to do, too," Rudolph said. "I hope that's something that, in my TV career, guys feel comfortable enough with me that they know they can help me do my job."
As for what it will be like to watch his first Vikings game as a fan on Sunday against the Chargers, the team he faced in his NFL regular-season debut, Rudolph expects "it will be different."
"I've gone to Notre Dame games as a former player, Elder High School games as a former player, but this will be my first NFL game as a former player and in a place that not only means a ton to me but my family," Rudolph said. [U.S. Bank Stadium was voted] No. 1 this year. It's the greatest environment and atmosphere in NFL football. To have an opportunity to be there will be weird, but I'm extremely excited to get the opportunity to be there and at the game. So, I'm really looking forward to being able to spend that moment together as a family."