Over the past few years, Kyle and Jordan Rudolph have been in the process of building their dream home.
The Vikings tight end is from Ohio, and his wife hails from Indiana, but there wasn't any question as to where the Rudolphs would construct their forever home.
Minnesota became the resounding answer over the course of 10 seasons in Vikings Purple that have been accented with a tireless commitment to the community.
The Rudolphs — along with 4-year-old twin daughters, Andersyn and Finley, plus 22-month old son, Henry — officially moved into their new house on Lake Minnetonka on Thursday.
"This will actually be our first weekend in the new house," Rudolph said. "It's exciting because having been here a decade, we've absolutely fallen in love with the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota. This is our forever home … the house that we'll raise our kids in and send them off in.
"Minnesota is home for us. We feel like we have so many roots that we've laid here and feel so entrenched in this community that it would be hard for us to kind of start over anywhere else," Rudolph added. "We're close enough to both of our families that we still get to see them — but at the same time, no matter what happens for me and my career … this is home now."
Rudolph laughed when asked about the design process and said he gladly stepped aside when planning the minute details.
"That part of the process was really cool because you are kind of always looking at things that you want," Rudolph said. "But my wife has every Pinterest imaginable. She actually loves the whole interior design thing."
Rudolph just had one request when determining the location.
"The thing I'm most excited for is to be on the lake," Rudolph added. "When you live in Minnesota and it's home full-time, there's nothing better than being out on the lake in the summer."
In some ways, the past decade has flown by for Rudolph, who arrived Up North as a second-round pick back in the 2011 NFL Draft.
And while he's certainly made an impact through the years by contributing to wins, he and his family might be more well-known for their constant commitment to the Twin Cities community.
A three-time Vikings Community Man of the Year (and nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year), the 31-year-old has made an indelible mark on the hearts and lives of countless families through his work at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.
Kyle Rudolph's End Zone, an interactive space that provides a respite from everyday hospital life, was unveiled in December of 2017. This year, his holiday-themed get-togethers around the holidays have had to be virtual, but he's still connecting with and encouraging patients and families who are facing tough challenges in life.
View images of the ribbon cutting of Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph's End Zone at the University of Minnesota's Masonic Children's Hospital.
Rudolph said his bond with the community played a part in the family deciding to make Minnesota their permanent home.
"Every year you just meet new people and make new relationships," Rudolph said. "After 10 years, all of a sudden, you look back and are like, 'Why would we ever leave here?'"
On the field, Rudolph has 18 catches for 238 yards and a touchdown through nine games in 2020.
And while that may not equate to the personal stats that helped Rudolph make a pair of Pro Bowls and become one of the league's most reliable tight ends over the past 10 years, one could argue that Rudolph is more of a well-rounded contributor and player than ever before.
Just ask Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
"I know that his catching numbers are down a little bit, but I think his overall game is improving," Zimmer said. "His protection, his run blocking, the way he's running routes, we've just got some other places where we're getting the ball.
"Plus, we haven't thrown the ball a lot the last couple of ball games," Zimmer added. "Those numbers will start coming back up, but I feel like he's playing as good as he's played since I've been here, anyway."
Put another way, it's likely that the Vikings don't rank fifth in the league with 153.6 rushing yards per game without Rudolph's commitment to that phase on offense. And that Vikings running back Dalvin Cook probably isn't leading the NFL with 954 rushing yards and 12 rushing scores.
"Rudy's playing well. He's been really good on the line of scrimmage," said Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak. "I'm always trying to get those guys involved, all of them, and Rudy does a great job and he's played very consistently and very unselfish for our football team.
"I think it's one of those deals where you never know where his big night is coming," Kubiak added days before Rudolph caught four passes for 63 yards in Chicago. "Rudy's given us everything he's got, and a lot of Dalvin's yards, Rudy gets a lot of credit because he's been great on the line of scrimmage."
Added Vikings right tackle Brian O'Neill: "If you're able to turn on the film and watch, there's a lot of times he's asked to block somebody 1-on-1 without any help, and he's done a phenomenal job. His communication's on point. The whole tight ends room has been on point and is a big reason for our success. Rudy leads those guys and spearheads that group, and we're really thankful for them, the communication they bring, the effort they bring and their willingness to block in the run."
Through 10 seasons, Rudolph has established himself as one of the Vikings top tight ends in franchise history.
He leads all players at that position with 48 touchdown catches, which also ranks fifth all-time in team history. His 443 receptions also rank fifth all-time and are second among tight ends behind Steve Jordan. Rudolph's 4,392 receiving yards rank 10th among all Vikings players.
Through 2016-2018, Rudolph was among the league's most productive tight ends in the receiving game, as he tallied 204 catches for 2,006 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Rudolph, who is poised to start his 91st consecutive game and pass Chad Greenway for the 20th longest streak by a Viking at any position, explained how his role has evolved over the past 15 months.
"Look at last year and this year — say, the last year-and-a-half — and my receptions and pass-catching numbers aren't what they were the three years prior," Rudolph said. "I've kind of flown under the radar in that aspect, and I actually enjoy that and would rather have it that way. Obviously, I'm used to catching the football, but over the last year-and-a-half, my role has changed and has forced me to really put a point of emphasis on the rest of my game.
"Since Coach Zimmer came here seven years ago, he's always challenged me in every aspect of my game [beyond] pass catching," Rudolph continued. "He knows that pass catching is something that I do well and is something that comes natural to me, so he's always challenged me in run blocking and pass protection, things that are more difficult for me."
Rudolph credited former position coaches Pat Shurmur and Clancy Barone, who both brought experience working with the offensive line, with helping his commitment to becoming "more of a complete tight end."
"Even though my pass-catching numbers are down, it's still good to hear from the head coach when he says you're playing your best football because I personally feel that, even if the stat sheet doesn't indicate it," Rudolph said.
Over the past year, Rudolph has continued to prove his sure-handedness in the passing game.
It was the veteran who caught the game-winning score to silence the Superdome in a Wild Card playoff win over the Saints in January.
Rudolph also hauled in a one-handed score in Week 3 over the Titans, a play that was reminiscent of him using a single mitt to snag scores on the road in Seattle and Dallas during the 2019 season.
And speaking of the Cowboys, Rudolph said one of the most popular players in their history is a reason why he has no problem taking on whatever role is asked of him these days.
Jason Witten spent 16 seasons with the Cowboys and is Dallas' all-time leader in catches (1,215) and yards (12,977). He is second in touchdowns with 72.
Rudolph said he spent time with Witten, who is now with the Raiders, at the Pro Bowl after the 2012 and 2017 seasons.
Rudolph noted Witten is "someone I've looked up to my whole life," and said the likely future Hall of Famer made a mark on him in terms of how to handle himself on and off the field.
"Maybe a guy that hasn't been here for 10 years or someone who hasn't gone through some of the heartache we've gone through over the years [would complain about an evolved role]," Rudolph said. "All I really care about is being on the first team that brings a championship to Minnesota.
"I had an opportunity to get to free agency a couple years ago, and I passed because this organization means way more to me than individual statistics," Rudolph added. "Could I go to another team and put up big statistics in the pass game? Absolutely, but it wouldn't mean as much to me as winning a championship here in Minnesota. When you go to the playoffs and get close to the Super Bowl, there's just a certain buzz around the Twin Cities."
Time will tell if the 4-5 Vikings can put a disappointing start behind them and make a second-half run at the postseason.
If Minnesota can get there, it would be the fifth trip to the postseason for Rudolph.
But no matter what happens — whether that's the season or for the rest of his NFL career — there's zero doubt about where Rudolph and his family will create memories that will last a lifetime.
"It's unbelievable," Rudolph said. "I joke around with a lot of guys in the locker room about this, but coming here as a 21-year-old kid … I went to school in South Bend [at Notre Dame], and didn't think there was much of a chance to get drafted by a team farther north than there.
"Yet here we are in Minnesota," Rudolph added. "I came up here after the draft for my press conference … but in the blink of an eye, all of a sudden, we're looking back on a decade here. And I don't want to go anywhere else."
By: Eric Smith