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A Look Back at Kyle Rudolph’s 10 Seasons with Vikings
By Eric Smith By Lindsey Young By Craig Peters Mar 03, 2021
Photographs By Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings and tight end Kyle Rudolph parted ways on Tuesday, bringing a conclusion to the three-time Vikings Community Man of the Year's 10-season run in Minnesota.

Rudolph wrote a "Dear Minnesota" letter for The Players' Tribune and made the announcement on social media Tuesday.

While he will now be looking for a new team for the 2021 season, fans will always reflect fondly on one of the top tight ends in team history who has made indelible marks in Minnesota through his commitments to the community.

View the best photos of tight end Kyle Rudolph during his time with the Vikings.

Here is a look back at some of the signature on-field and off-field moments from Rudolph's time with the team.

April 29, 2011 | Rick Spielman describes second-round pick as "too good to pass up"

The Vikings tabbed Rudolph out of Notre Dame with the 43rd overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. He was just 21 years old, but Rick Spielman had a hunch that he had tabbed a special player and person.

Nov. 20, 2011 | First career touchdown

Rudolph's impressive 48 career receiving touchdowns are the fifth-most by any Viking. His scoring tally began with a 1-yard catch on a pass from Christian Ponder against the Oakland Raiders.

Jan. 22, 2013 | Selected to first Pro Bowl

Rudolph's second pro season included starting all 16 games for the first time, and he became a focal point in Minnesota's attack. Rudolph caught 53 passes for 493 yards and nine scores in 2012 to help the Vikings go 10-6 and make the playoffs as a Wild Card team. After the season, Rudolph was selected to his first Pro Bowl, replacing Tony Gonzalez.

Jan. 27, 2013 | First Pro Bowl

Rudolph made the most of the opportunity, catching five passes for 122 yards. The effort included a 3-yard touchdown on a pass from Eli Manning to close the first half of a game the NFC eventually won 62-35.

Jan. 27, 2013 | Pro Bowl MVP

In addition to the clutch score for a 31-14 lead at intermission, Rudolph also delivered a 52-yard reception on another pass from Manning. He led all players in receiving yards and with a whopping 24.4 yards per reception to garner Pro Bowl MVP honors.

May 23, 2016 | Twins first pitch and big announcement

Rudolph shared some big news before his big moment.

Just before throwing out the first pitch at the Minnesota Twins game at Target Field, Rudolph announced that he and his wife Jordan were expecting twins of their own – daughters Andersyn and Finley, who were born in October 2016.

In 2018, the family welcomed a third child, son Henry.

Aug. 28, 2016 | First Vikings touchdown at U.S. Bank Stadium

Rudolph helped the Vikings open U.S. Bank Stadium in grand fashion. The tight end caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater to make Minnesota's first trip to the end zone in the first preseason game hosted by the venue. The score capped a six-play, 78-yard drive in 1:10 and gave the Vikings a two-point halftime lead in what became a 23-10 win.

Sept. 18, 2016 | First regular-season Vikings touchdown at U.S. Bank Stadium

Rudolph's 8-yard touchdown catch on a pass from Sam Bradford was the first by a Viking in their new venue. It tied the game against the Packers at 7 in the second quarter, and Minnesota won the inaugural game 17-14.

The tight end and former college teammate Harrison Smith are the only two Vikings players who suited up for regular-season games at the Metrodome, for both seasons at the University of Minnesota and each of the first five seasons at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Dec. 25, 2016 | Kyle Rudolph's First Red Eye to the North Pole

It only makes sense that a tight end by the name of Rudolph would have a special affinity for holiday festivities, right?

In December 2016, the Rudolph family hosted its first "Rudy's Red Eye Express," a magical evening for patients at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. Young people and their families boarded a plane for a "flight" to the North Pole, which included reindeer, holiday crafts, plenty of sweets and, of course, Santa Claus.

The Rudolphs hosted the unique event annually from 2016-19.

View photos of tight end Kyle Rudolph who supported the community in many ways during his time with the Vikings.

Jan. 1, 2017 | Breaking Steve Jordan's franchise-record for touchdown catches by a tight end

The sixth season of Rudolph's career ended with a 22-yard touchdown from Bradford in a 38-10 win over the Bears, giving him the record for touchdown catches by a tight end (Steve Jordan, 28). It was his seventh score of the 2016 season. Rudolph finished the season with career highs in targets (132), receptions (83), yards (840) and catches that resulted in a first down (50).

Oct. 9, 2017 | Duck, Duck, Gray Duck

In a season where the Vikings went 13-3 and advanced to the NFC title game, the team was also known for creative touchdown celebrations. None were more memorable than this one, which Rudolph led after catching a 13-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum.

Dec. 7, 2017 | Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee

In 2017, Rudolph received his first of three nominations by the Vikings for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

Rudolph's dedication to the Twin Cities community, and in particular his relationship with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's hospital, did not go unnoticed. He credited former Vikings teammates John Sullivan, along with Chad Greenway, as inspirations for his work at the hospital.

Dec. 19, 2017 | Opening Kyle Rudolph's End Zone

Less than two weeks after being named the Vikings nominee for the 2017 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, Rudolph and his family unveiled Kyle Rudolph's End Zone at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's hospital.

The 2,500-square-foot therapeutic play space offers young patients and their families a destination of respite and sense of "normalcy" during often-difficult hospital stays.

Kyle Rudolph's End Zone, which features an indoor basketball hoop, digital sports simulator, kitchen and seating area, Love Your Melon Lounge and more, has become a beloved space.

Jan. 4, 2018 | Vikings Ed Block Courage Award Winner

Vikings teammates selected the seventh-year tight end as the club's 2017 Ed Block Courage Award recipient. Rudolph was recognized for his work with the children's hospital, Starkey Hearing Foundation, MATTER, Second Harvest Heartland, American Cancer Society, Muscular Dystrophy Association and the James Beard Foundation, among others.

The Ed Block Courage Award annually honors one player from every NFL team who exemplifies commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.

Jan. 22, 2018 | Named to second career Pro Bowl

Rudolph played in his second Pro Bowl after catching 64 passes for 634 yards with four touchdowns during the 2017 season. He had seven catches for 70 yards in the game, but the NFC fell short in a 24-23 loss.

Dec. 6, 2018 | Second Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination — "Dear Kyle"

In 2018, Rudolph received his second consecutive nomination for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. He also became the subject of one of the most touching and heartfelt videos produced by the Vikings. "Dear Kyle" featured letters of gratitude written – and read – by some of those who have been most impacted by Rudolph's care and generosity.

The video showed a surprised Rudolph receiving the letters and reading several of them, including one from the family members of Rudolph's young friend Anton Delgado, who passed away at age 5.

"It's why we do what we do," Rudolph said in response to the emotional letters.

Dec. 23, 2018 | Hail Mary at Detroit

Rudolph used his basketball background to haul in one of the most memorable scores of the 2018 season. The Vikings trailed 9-7 in the waning seconds of the first half before Rudolph leapt up to grab a 44-yard pass from Kirk Cousins as time expired. The play ignited a 20-0 Vikings run to close the game.

Jan. 2019 | Winning the 2018 Nationwide Charity Challenge

Thanks to plenty of love from Vikings fans across the globe, Rudolph in 2019 was announced the winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Charity Challenge. Fans mentioned his name and #WPMOYChallenge on social media more than any other player between Dec. 6, 2018, and Jan. 13, 2019.

As the winner, Rudolph received $25,000 from Nationwide to donate to the charity of his choice, the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.

Nov. 10, 2019 | One-handed catch at Dallas

All eyes were on Sunday Night Football when the Vikings met the Cowboys in Week 10 of the 2019 season. And it was Rudolph who gave people plenty to talk about as he used only his right hand to catch a 1-yard touchdown from Cousins in the back of the end zone. Rudolph scored twice on the night in the 28-24 Vikings win.

Nov. 17, 2019 | Moves into 5th place in franchise history for career receptions

This game will be remembered for the Vikings wild comeback that involved erasing a 20-point halftime deficit.

Rudolph played a part in the rally with the game-winning score on a 32-yard catch late in the fourth quarter. He also made history earlier in the game with a simple 5-yard catch that moved him past Jake Reed for the fifth-most catches in team history. Rudolph had five catches for 67 yards and a score on the day.

Dec. 2, 2019 | One-handed touchdown grab at Seattle

Another nationally-televised game, another one-handed catch for Rudolph. This one occurred in Seattle during an eventual Vikings loss on Monday Night Football, but it showed the tight end's reliability in the red zone.

Dec. 12, 2019 | Third Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination

Rudolph received his third consecutive nomination for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. Though he never received the ultimate honor, his efforts to make a positive impact on the community never slowed.

Jan. 5, 2020 | Catching game-winning touchdown at New Orleans in playoff game

Perhaps the most memorable catch of Rudolph's career, this also is a top moment in franchise history. The Vikings were heavy underdogs for a Wild Card playoff game on the road in New Orleans. But Rudolph silenced the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with a walk-off touchdown catch in overtime. The 4-yard score gave the Vikings a 26-20 win over the Saints and was Minnesota's first overtime playoff win in franchise history.

June 5, 2020 | "Change Starts With Me"

Following the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis Police officers on Memorial Day, riots resulted in significant damage to many businesses near the Lake Street corridor.

Rudolph responded to a need by helping organize the "Change Starts with Me" donation drive to provide essential goods to those directly impacted by the social unrest. He was joined by a number of his teammates and other notable Minnesota sports figures, including Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie and University of Minnesota football Head Coach P.J. Fleck.

Sept. 27, 2020 | One-handed touchdown against Titans and final as a Viking

It's only fitting that Rudolph used just one hand (again) to find the end zone in what would turn out to be his final touchdown in Purple. This one came at home in Week 3 against the Titans on a 3-yard pass from Cousins. It was his 48th and final touchdown catch as a member of the Vikings. Rudolph ranks fifth in team history in touchdown catches and has the most touchdown receptions by a tight end in franchise history.

Dec. 3, 2020 | Art Rooney Sportsmanship nomination

A consummate professional, Rudolph in December was named the Vikings nominee for the 2020 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.

The award has been presented each year since 2014 to an NFL player who best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.

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