Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has done numerous appearances throughout his time in Minnesota and has met countless young football players.
Recently, however, Rudolph had the opportunity to surprise a high school football player who's breaking barriers as the first female player for Brainerd High School. Lili Charlier plays left tackle for the Warriors and has had a successful high school career.
Gabriel Lagarde of the *Brainerd Dispatch *wrote about Charlier's encounter with Rudolph at the grand opening of a sporting goods store.
Rudolph and Charlier spent a few minutes talking quietly together about her tenure at Brainerd High School and her future plans, including a full scholarship to play women's rugby at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., where she also looks to pursue a degree in the field of psychology.
"She's playing a game that guys dominate in. She's had an illustrious high school career," Rudolph told Lagarde. "What stands out to me is how well-rounded she is, also being into weight lifting and rugby. She's plays left tackle, she plays probably one of the hardest positions in our game. So, I have a lot of respect for her."
While Rudolph's 6-foot-6 frame doesn't make him easy to hide, he successfully pulled surprising Charlier.
"I had a couple hints, but I honestly did not know it was going to be like this," Charlier told Lagarde. "I know he was here … but I did not put two and two together."
Following his conversation with Charlier, Rudolph spent time signing autographs and posing for photos with fans beyond the Twin Cities.
"We are the Minnesota Vikings, not the Minneapolis Vikings," Rudolph said. "This team is beloved across the state, so to have the opportunity to come up here and venture out a little further north than just the Twin Cities, there's a ton of fans up here, and I'm honored to have the opportunity to spend time with them."
Next Gen Stats ranks Vikings O-line 6th overall
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer promised to focus on the offensive line during the 2017 offseason, and their work paid off.
Minnesota fielded a much-improved offensive line during the 2017 season, and the upswing was noticed by more than just Vikings fans. NFL.com's Matt Harmon delved into o-lines across the league and used Next Gen Stats to evaluate their 2017 performance before listing a top 10.
Harmon listed the Vikings at No. 6 overall, pointing out that the unit allowed 193 pressures (14th) and averaged 0.53 "yards gained before close" (YGBC) which measures the number of rushing yards a running back gains before opposing defenders come within one yard of the player. According to Harmon, the league average is 0.29 YGBC. He wrote:
Case Keenum told NFL Network's Deion Sanders that operating the Vikings offense was like being "handed the keys to a Lamborghini" after a late-season win. He wasn't just boasting about his enviable collection of pass-catching brethren. The Vikings brought in several mid-tier free agents last offseason, and the offensive line [jelled] as a result, especially in the run game. Consider that in 2016, Minnesota backs gained an average of zero yards before defenders closed within a yard, ranking dead last that season. In 2017, the figure jumped all the way up to 0.53 and into the top six. With the line opening up holes in the run game, the Vikings were able to overcome the early-season loss of rookie Dalvin Cook and ride Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon to keep their ground attack afloat.
Harmon's full list, starting at No. 1, was as follows: Saints, Bills, Rams, Ravens, Chargers, Vikings, Raiders, Steelers, Falcons and Jaguars.