MINNEAPOLIS — Most days this season, Xavier Rhodes has tried to emulate Scrooge, but on Tuesday he flipped the switch to Santa.
Rhodes has been one of the stingiest defenders in the NFL, posting 17 passes defensed and restricting opportunities for opposing receivers in his second pro season. This week, however, he created receivers instead of covering them.
Rhodes bought three overflowing Target shopping carts worth of toys, games, headphones and some pajama pants for children, infants through teens, who are receiving treatment at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital.
Rhodes said the joy that he has with his son, Justin, inspired him to want to bring good feelings to others.
"I wanted to put a smile on kids' faces and make the holiday better," Rhodes said. "Having a child myself, I see that I can bring joy to a child's heart."
Rhodes autographed footballs he delivered to patients' rooms and took pictures with teens, encouraging them during their treatment.
He visited with a 14-year-old named Will from Iowa, and the two chatted about college football, particularly how they both root against SEC schools and Iowa's appearance in the 2010 Orange Bowl (in Rhodes' hometown of Miami) and movies like The Avengers.
Rhodes also visited with a 16-year-old named Alex from Prior Lake and his extended family and learned how much Alex likes to hunt and fish. The player told the teen that Miami doesn't quite have the outdoorsy opportunities that Minnesota does, and the family said they are excited about the Vikings new stadium they can see rising in the view from the room.
"It was fun to just give back to kids and families that couldn't quite celebrate the holidays like they wanted," Rhodes said.