It wasn’t long ago Kyle Rudolph was carving up defenses for the Irish, now he’s making his mark as one of the best tight-ends at the NFL level.
Rudolph is a rare talent and has been at the peak of his positional counterparts from an early age. The Ohio native was the number one ranked tight-end prospect in the 2008 according to Rivals, and the 20th best prospect overall. Rudolph committed to the Irish early in the process and to nobody’s surprise continued the legacy of great Notre Dame tight-ends at the next level.
In 2008 Rudolph became the first tight-end in Notre Dame history to start every game as a freshman. He totalled 29 receptions for 340 yards and two touchdowns. His next two seasons for the Irish were plagued with injuries, missing a total of nine games over his sophomore and junior seasons with shoulder and hamstring injuries. Rudolph’s injuries prevented him from rewriting the record book for tight-ends at Notre Dame but he is still considered one of the best to dawn the Irish colors. Rudolph totalled 90 receptions for 1032 yards and eight touchdowns in only 28 games while finding himself seldom the primary option behind the likes of Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.
Rudolph would declare for the draft after his junior season. He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the second round, 43rd overall. He would experience a solid rookie season tallying 26 receptions for 249 yards and three touchdowns.
This past season was of the breakout variety for Rudolph. He totalled 53 receptions for 493 yards and nine touchdowns. Rudolph was selected to the Pro Bowl where he would win the MVP award in a 62-35 NFC victory.
Rudolph has found his place in the Vikings offense as one of young quarterback Christian Ponder’s favorite targets. In a Vikings offense that lacks options in the passing game, especially with the absence of Percy Harvin, Rudolph is a true security blanket for Ponder as he is always available across the middle of the field or in the flats.
Rudolph is also a monster in the red zone as he is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses at 6’6’’ 259 pounds. The Elder high school alumni is truly a complete NFL tight-end, possessing every necessary skill from blocking to route running and overall intelligence of the game. He is also of paramount importance for the Vikings as Ponder continues to grow as a quarterback and balance is needed to open up space for Adrian Peterson to dominate.
Rudolph will only continue to improve as a professional and make big plays for the Vikings offense. Although his numbers may not always be as impressive as this past season when splitting touches with Peterson, Harvin, and fellow tight-end and Notre Dame great John Carlson, Rudolph will always be a key factor in his team’s success.