Demonstrates Excellence on The Field
In 2015, Eric Kendricks became the first Vikings rookie to lead the team in tackles since Minnesota's inaugural 1961 season. He has led the Vikings in tackles in each of his first five seasons and entered Week 6 as the NFL leader. Eric is on pace to tie franchise records of six consecutive seasons as the team's leading tackler, matching Pro Bowlers Scott Studwell (1980-85) and Chad Greenway (2008-13).
A second-round pick in 2015, Eric has been central to the success of a Vikings defense that, from 2015-19, ranked second in the NFL in points allowed per game (18.8) and yards allowed per game (317.3) and led the League in third-down percentage (33.9 percent allowed).
He earned his first Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro selections in 2019 after tying for the NFL lead among linebackers with 12 pass breakups and earning the highest grade from Pro Football Focus for any linebacker last season (90.5). Eric consistently raises the play of his teammates.
Demonstrates Dedication and Commitment to Community Efforts this Year
Incredible challenges — including the COVID-19 pandemic and the pain brought by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — prompted Eric's impressive responses. He readily helped with messages to communicate the importance of healthy habits to Vikings fans and then was inspired to create paintings, sell them and match donations for coronavirus relief efforts.
Floyd's death less than five miles from U.S. Bank Stadium while in police custody sent a shockwave throughout the world. The tragedy caused tremendous pain in many and motivated Kendricks to call for meaningful changes in the NFL's efforts to understand social injustices and create a fairer world, even if progress requires leaving one's comfort zone.
"We all have to get a little bit uncomfortable," Eric says. "We all have to educate ourselves. We have to put ourselves out there. We have to be vulnerable. These are real issues."
In addition to tearful video messages that went viral, Eric engaged behind the scenes to better understand problems and facilitate change. He and Anthony Barr flew from California to Minnesota to meet with Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo on June 6. They learned some of the challenges that Arradondo has faced when trying to implement policing reform.
During that trip to Minneapolis, Eric and Anthony shared somber moments when they visited the memorial created at the intersection where Floyd died.
The former college teammates also participated in a beneficial conversation with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss how the League and players can work together to achieve social justice.
Demonstrates Dedication and Commitment to Community Efforts in Years Past
The Vikings Social Justice Committee formed in 2018, and Eric has been a key member.
His participation led to a relationship with multiple youth who are housed at the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center. In addition to recruiting teammates for a formal visit to the facility, Eric has made numerous in-person visits on his own in the past two-plus years.
When COVID-19 stopped in-person visits, Eric realized the isolation that the youth were encountering and has made accommodations to visit virtually each month, continuing to encourage the young people to move past previous mistakes.
Demonstrates Consistency in Positive Character and Models a Lifestyle of Giving Back
Eric understands that creating a better present can enable a brighter future.
Having personally experienced childhood hunger during his youth and realizing how detrimental the lack of basic human needs can be, Eric has battled childhood hunger for several seasons through fundraising campaigns and a partnership with The Sheridan Story. "I can't say I didn't see [childhood hunger] in the neighborhood I grew up in," Eric said. "I understand that I needed help as a child and that I was given that help from all types of areas," Kendricks added. "Whether it was family, friends, my teachers … I understand that it takes a village to raise a child. I want to help be that village." In addition to visiting detained juveniles in Minnesota during the season, Eric also has visited them in California during the offseason. He has written letters to the young people and encouraged them to write letters to him. He estimates that 75 percent of the youth said in their letters that they were hungry when they committed offenses.
"I see these kids, and they're good kids. But they get stuck in the system, and they're there forever, and it infuriates me. Because I feel like there's no one else that's looking out for them. I feel like they're abandoned." The Minnesota Vikings are thankful to nominate Eric Kendricks as their Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee.