Former Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph was named to the first Pro Bowl of his professional career on Tuesday in just his second season playing on Sundays. Rudolph, a second round pick of the Minnesota Vikings a year ago is the lone Golden Domer to make this year’s Pro Bowl.
Rudolph led all NFC tight ends in receiving touchdowns in 2012 with 9 and trailed only Rob Gronkowski for the NFL led by just 1. Rudolph made the team after Atlanta Falcons tight en Tony Gonzalez pulled out of the game following the Falcons NFC Championship game loss to the 49ers on Sunday.
After a slow start as a rookie in 2011, Rudolph hauled in 53 passes for 493 yards more than doubling his receptions total from his rookie season.
One of several tight ends from Notre Dame in the NFL, Rudolph has quickly established himself as an elite receiving threat at tight end at the next level. Rudolph was also able to reach to the Pro Bowl before other former Domers like John Carlson and Anthony Fasano. That group will also be joined by Tyler Eifert next year with the all time tight end receiving leader at Notre Dame a likely first round pick in April’s draft.
Rudolph is one of six Minnesota Vikings to make this year’s Pro Bowl, but is the only Notre Dame to earn Pro Bowl honors this year. Justin Tuck had been named to the Pro Bowl in both 2008 and 2010 but didn’t make the team last year after battling injuries and then struggled mightily this year along with the rest of the Giants defense line.
Outside of Tuck though, there aren’t many top line players who have matriculated to the NFL from Notre Dame – a sign of what the talent level has been in South Bend over the years. That could change in the future, however, with several younger Notre Dame players starting to make names for themselves.
Harrison Smith, a teammate of Rudolph in Minnesota, had a fantastic rookie season this past year and could be headed towards Pro Bowl distinction in future years. Another rookie out of Notre Dame, Michael Floyd, started to emerge in Arizona at the end of his rookie campaign as well and could easily develop into a Pro Bowl caliber receiver if the Cardinals can find a quarterback.
As the talent level continues to rise at Notre Dame, the Irish should start to have a greater presence in the yearly NFL all-star game – especially if the rosters continue to expand as they have over the last few years with stars from Super Bowl bound teams ineligible for the game and other stars pulling out for various injuries after their teams are eliminated.