Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

5 Things to Know About Vikings New TE Robert Tonyan


EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings have added a familiar face to their roster, but he's never before played for Minnesota.

Tight end Robert Tonyan is joining the team, the Vikings announced Thursday.

Most recently, Tonyan spent the 2023 season with the Bears, for whom he started six of 17 games. He totaled 11 catches for 112 yards (10.2 average) on 17 targets.

That wasn't his first NFC stop, though. In fact, Tonyan has spent time with all three of Minnesota's division rivals.

Chicago Bears tight end Robert Tonyan (18) makes a catch against Atlanta Falcons safety Jessie Bates III (3) in the first half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/David Banks)

He got his first NFL opportunity with the Lions, who signed him in 2017 as an undrafted free agent but released him before the start of the regular season.

Green Bay signed Tonyan to its practice squad for the final four games of the 2017 campaign and re-signed him for 2018. Tonyan – "Bobby," as he was called by Aaron Rodgers – went on to spend the next five seasons with the Packers and totaled 137 catches for 1,437 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Tonyan worked in Green Bay with tight ends coach Brian Angelichio, who currently is the passing game coordinator/tight ends coach in Minnesota.


Single Game Tickets On Sale

Tickets for home games at U.S. Bank Stadium for the 2024 season are now available.

Here are five things to know about Minnesota's newest tight end:

  1. Former receiver … and quarterback?

Tonyan started his football career as a quarterback. As a high school QB in Illinois, he earned All-State nominations in 2010 and 2011 and set a McHenry East High School record of 5,000 career passing yards and had 40 career touchdown passes.

He went on to play collegiately at Indiana State, where he redshirted in 2012 and then played in 11 games (three starts) during the 2013 season.

In 2014, Tonyan transitioned from quarterback to wide receiver and played in 13 games for the Sycamores, recording 54 catches for 747 yards and four touchdowns. His career-high of 172 receiving yards occurred against Western Illinois and ranked as the seventh-highest single-game total in program history.

Chicago Bears tight end Robert Tonyan (18) plays against the Atlanta Falcons during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)
  1. Persistence pays off

Before being offered a scholarship at Indiana State, Tonyan reached out to college football program after college football program, trying to get anyone to take a look at his film and give him an opportunity.

He didn't do it alone, though; instead, it became a family affair to get Tonyan into a Division I football program.

Wes Hodkiewicz wrote the following for a feature on, highlighting Tonyan's mother Tammy:

With her father hospitalized for 108 days at one point, Tammy would get done with work around 2:30 p.m., pick up her mom and drive one hour to stay with him until 8 p.m.

After dropping her mom back off, Tammy would get home, and she and Robert would get back to sending emails (preferably five a night) to colleges. And she was relentless, often trying schools four or five times before moving on.

The most joyous part was when she'd open her inbox and see a college had replied. Tammy would then leave a note for Robert the next morning, with the name and phone number of any coaches who expressed interest. At that point, it was up to Robert to call…and he always did.


Tammy never intervened on the calls, but occasionally listened in from beneath the staircase to see how Robert was doing. It was only later on, after offering the same advice to her friends, Tammy realized just how rare her son's willingness to call was.

Chicago Bears tight end Robert Tonyan (18) walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023. The Browns won 20-17. (AP Photo/David Richard)
  1. Worked out with Keenan

During the spring of 2015, Tonyan had the opportunity to work out with Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen in California while preparing for the NFL Draft.

Interestingly, Allen this offseason was traded from the Chargers to the Bears and will join Tonyan in the NFC North.

  1. Supports a worthy cause

Tonyan represented GiGi's Playhouse, a group of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers, for last year's NFL My Cause My Cleats campaign.

Tonyan is quite familiar with the nonprofit, which includes a location in his hometown of McHenry, Illinois, as the mother of a high school teammate was heavily involved.

Each summer, the McHenry East football team would host field days or community service activities with the young people of GiGi's Playhouse.

"They are the most genuine, real, loving people to be around and for them to get an opportunity to be a part of something, be a part of a group, be a part of their team, it's just fun," Tonyan said.


2024 Schedule Wallpapers

Download the Vikings 2024 schedule wallpapers right to your device.

  1. George Kittle's roommate

In 2019, Tonyan rented a room from Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle.

ESPN's Rob Demovsky told the story, noting that Tonyan and Kittle trained together ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft and had the same agent. When Kittle decided he needed a roommate for the summer, he sent out a text to several people and Tonyan was the first to respond.

"I hadn't seen him for about a year and a half, and then he came down, lived with me. It worked out perfectly," Kittle said.

Demovsky wrote that Tonyan "sounds like the ideal housemate."

"I'm an around-the-house guy; I like to do the laundry, clean the dishes," Tonyan said. "I do my part. My mom cleans houses for a living, so I'm like that. I clean my house every night, too. I'm a weirdo like that."