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Kyle Rudolph - 2019 Man of the year nominee

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Kyle Rudolph

TIGHT END

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Kyle Rudolph's impact at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital runs much deeper the 27 Holiday Huddles he has been a part of, including 9 he has personally hosted—and counting—and the vast number of visits he makes on a weekly basis. Kyle and his wife, Jordan, officially opened Kyle Rudolph's End Zone in December 2017. The interactive space at the children's hospital has hosted more than 10,000 visits by patients and families, providing an escape during prolonged hospitalizations. The End Zone, which Kyle called "a dream come true," offers a number of unique features, including a small kitchen area, indoor basketball hoop, digital sports simulator, sensory walk/area for patients with autism spectrum disorder or other behavior health conditions, and a CenturyLink Zone equipped with a television and video game consoles. The End Zone has also provided Kyle with the opportunity to affect many more lives beyond just the physical space he helped create. Just months after Kyle gifted Super Bowl tickets to young patient Cooper Baltzell and his parents, his mother Ashley unexpectedly passed away. While this news was crushing to Kyle and Jordan, he immediately sought ways to help. The Rudolphs soon committed to funding Cooper's education moving forward, which is a gesture offered without public announcement surrounding it. Kyle's work extends far beyond the hospital, though. He was called the "key donor" after committing more than $2 million for his alma mater's 20,000-square-foot fitness center, which opened in the summer of 2019. He has been a significant supporter of Elder High School in Cincinnati throughout his college and professional career. Kyle also serves as an ambassador for both the United Heroes League and the American Cancer Society. He gives his time with UHL for multiple flag football tournaments to support military families and give kids a chance to be involved with sports despite any limitations with their parents serving our country. He also traveled to Germany in April 2018 to host a football camp for the Kaiserslautern military community. With the American Cancer Society, Kyle serves as the key spokesman for the NFL's Crucial Catch initiative and supports survivors each year at events. This year, he invited 15 survivors and their caregivers to the Vikings' October 13 Crucial Catch game vs. the Philadelphia Eagles. Although former Viking Matt Birk never shared a locker room with Kyle, the Minnesota native recognizes the impact he has on the community. As a former Walter Payton Man of the Year recipient himself, his opinion carries some weight. "I'm proud that he's a Minnesota Viking, I'm proud that he's in this community right now. I hope he's here for a lot longer because he's definitely somebody that, absent of what he does on the football field, for my kids, I can point to him and say, 'Be like this guy. Don't be like him the football player but be like this guy the man.'"

Since Kyle's first season in the NFL and with the Vikings in 2011, he has been committed to giving back to the Minnesota community. Steve Hutchinson was an inspiration early on, as the All-Pro guard's involvement with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital sparked something in Kyle. After Hutchinson moved on, Vikings Center John Sullivan used his platform to build a playground after a substantial donation. Seeing the immense impact this had, Kyle decided to build Kyle Rudolph's End Zone. Beyond the hospital, Kyle has made consistent visits to local Ronald McDonald House locations, with plans on a more expansive relationship upcoming. He has been a significant supporter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, including being a key supporter at many MDA Muscle Team Galas. He has also taken an interest in the Minnesota Vikings' social justice efforts, including attending school visits with fellow teammates led by Project Success, an organization dedicated to providing inner city students with opportunities to have facilitated discussions, to go on local-to-global expeditions, and experience other unique programs. Kyle was a key member of the player-led Minnesota Vikings social justice committee in past seasons. Year after year, Kyle expands his reach in a different way. While his impact is felt by his involvement with various organizations or causes around the state of Minnesota, what is far more significant is the impact he has on those he has built relationships with. Four-time cancer survivor and Minnesota Golden Gopher football player Casey O'Brien describes Kyle as an inspiration and hopes to help others the way Kyle has with his own story. "I'm very thankful to be around Kyle Rudolph. He's a one-of-a-kind person. He's inspired me a ton. He's probably the most influential person in the state in terms of giving back," Casey said.

It is clear that Kyle recognized the importance of giving back at a young age, and he has made sure to utilize his platform to make a difference ever since he had the chance. "There was a program in my elementary school, with a local school that was for all kids with special needs, and they would come over, whether it was for music class or whatnot, but just being around kids with special needs and seeing that, although they have special needs, they're no different than any other kid. They love probably far greater than anyone else, and they deserve that just as much as anybody else."- Kyle Rudolph. Kyle could have sat back and rested on the popularity that comes with being a multi-sport star in high school, but he made sure to make friends with people who were unable to hit the gridiron or hardwood. Jeffrey was born with Spina Bifida but had a tremendous passion for the sports teams at Elder High School. Kyle forged a bond that remains strong today. Kyle attended the same high school as his grandfather and father—Elder High School in Cincinnati, OH. He credits lessons learned there with helping shape who he is as a person. The school has a commitment to making positive social impacts, and that influence is a reason he decided to personally donate $2.5 million toward a new fitness center. Phase 1 of the project has been completed on the first new structure built on the main campus since 1980. After graduating from Elder High School, he chose to attend Notre Dame to play football. The importance of giving back was reinforced through Head Coach Charlie Weis and his wife, who founded Hannah & Friends in support of their daughter and others who have special needs. He sits on the Board of Directors for Hannah & Friends today. He continues to act as a role model for so many around the state of Minnesota, and now he focuses on being that and more for his own children. From Kyle: "That's one of the things with Andi, Fin & Henry, making sure that we raise them the same way that Jordan and I were raised. In that, we're extremely fortunate to be in the situation that we're extremely fortunate to be in the situation that we're in through the game of football. But I don't want my kids to be raised privileged; it's important that they understand that they have really nice things, and not everybody has really nice things. People wonder why we take them to the hospital at such a young age. It's just to show them how lucky and how fortunate we are as a family, and not everybody is that lucky."

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) rushes during an NFL football game between the between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

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