While his time with the Vikings has come to an end, Rudolph is not willing to bid Minnesota adieu.
In Dear Minnesota, a piece The Players’ Tribune published on Tuesday following Rudolph’s release, the 31-year-old tight end took fans through his decade-long journey with the Vikings, detailing how he and his family have embraced the North Star state.
Thank you Minnesota!! Although my time as a Viking has come to a close, my time as a MINNESOTAN is just getting started! https://t.co/eb2aP3O4vo
— Kyle Rudolph (@KyleRudolph82) March 2, 2021
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‘I Got So Lucky’
Rudolph was the top-ranked tight end coming out of the 2011 NFL Draft and had expected to be picked in the first round that year — a dream of his. He slid past tight end-needy teams he spoke with throughout the pre-draft process and had his viewing party spoiled after being passed on in the first round.
“Party over, dream over. I was pretty devastated,” Rudolph wrote.
He was taken by surprise when the Vikings, brimming with veteran tight end talent in Visanthe Shiancoe and Jim Kleinsasser, picked the Notre Dame prospect in the second round at No. 43 overall.
“I’ll be honest: It seemed a little random at the time,” Rudolph wrote. “Looking back on it now, though?? I’ve come to understand something about that moment…
“I got so lucky.”
‘I Always Felt Like This Place Believed in the Vikings’
Rudolph went on to explain why he, in hindsight, feels lucky to have fallen to the Vikings:
I got so lucky, because — I didn’t just get drafted by some team who “had a need at tight end.” I didn’t just get drafted as, like, the nameless, faceless “#1 tight end on the board.” I got drafted by a team that was all set in terms of need….. but then drafted me anyway.
I’ll always remember that: how the Minnesota Vikings wanted me — and wanted to bet on my potential.
Or to put it another way: how the Vikings believed in me.
And as I’m sitting here now, and going through my memories from the last decade, I think that’s one of the things that stands out to me most. How, at every level….. whether it’s ownership, or the front office, or my coaches, or my teammates, or — especially — you all fans….. I’ve always felt like this place believed in me.
I’ve always felt like this place believed in the Vikings.
As an NFL team, yeah — but also as a larger idea. As a culture. Like: Does Minnesota live and breathe football?? Of course it does. You guys are the smartest, most passionate fans I’ve ever met. But there’s also something else about you, something special, that I really think sets you apart. And it’s the way that you believe in this team….. no matter what.
While Rudolph has recognized what makes Minnesota’s culture unique, he said there are certain things about the state and its denizens that he still hasn’t quite grasped in 10 years here.
There’s always just been hope.
You’ve never wavered in believing in what this team is about.
And I want to thank you all for that, because it’s rubbed off on me in so many ways. It’s rubbed off on my life in ways that I don’t think I’ve even fully realized yet. I think being a part of this culture over the last 10 years….. it’s made me grow into a better football player — but also a better father, and a better husband, and a better man.
And as I’m closing this chapter of my career, and saying my piece to Vikings Nation, I feel like the right thing to do is to think about it all from that perspective — the perspective that you guys have granted me so many times.
One of loyalty, and optimism, and gratitude, and respect.
‘It’s Not a Goodbye’
Rudolph took the opportunity to give thanks to the numerous teammates and Vikings staff who have helped him over the years.
While Rudolph bid his farewells to the Vikings organization, he closed his essay — not with a goodbye — but with “we’ll see you around.”
He detailed that while he may don a new jersey and move onto a new team, the family is staying put.
Here’s what he wrote:
I would hope that that doesn’t need saying, but just so you guys know: the Rudolph family — we’re not going anywhere. Sure, I’ll be playing for another team next fall. But it’s like I said: This is a culture that’s about a lot more than 60 minutes on a Sunday afternoon. This is a community.
And it means everything to us to be a part of it.
Jordan and I, we’re from different parts of the country….. but we feel like we’ve become adopted Minnesotans over the last 10 years. And our three kids? I mean, they’re not even adopted to it — they were born here, and have grown up here, and I couldn’t imagine raising them anyplace else. (First thing our oldest daughter said, after we had a little family conversation about Dad playing for a new team: She wanted to make it known that she would not be parting with her Minnesota Vikings baby giraffe blanket. Understood.)
So, yeah….. there wasn’t really much to talk about, in terms of what our family would be doing, in light of Dad changing teams.
My career is my career, and I’m really excited about whatever is around the corner. I think I have a lot of good football still to play — and the fire inside of me to win a Super Bowl is burning as strong as ever. That’s the one big goal I have left.
But it’s still just football.
Minnesota, on the other hand….. it’s so much bigger than that.
It’s where our future is. It’s where our heart is.
Thanks again, Vikings fans — for everything.
We’ll see you around.
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