Reporting Shane Kitzman
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Here are some intriguing facts about Vikings second-year tight end Kyle Rudolph, who appears poised for a breakout sophomore season.
The Cincinnati native has never wavered from backing controversial superstar LeBron James.
“I’ve never had anything against him,” said the 6-foot-6-inch 22-year-old, who set the Elder High School record for rebounds back when he was a two-sport star. “He’s gone through hard times leaving Ohio. I’m happy to see him get his ring.”
He lives the Minnesotan lifestyle better than many of those who call the Land of 10,000 Lakes home. You can find the Wayzata resident not only bass fishing in his free time, but also wakeboarding on Lake Minnetonka.
“I don’t think there’s any place better in the world to be in the summer time,” said Rudolph, who’s also an avid golfer, belonging to Olympic Hills Golf Club in Eden Prairie. “Cruising around on the lake, and fishing – it doesn’t get any better.”
The man who’s been photographed in public sporting pink khakis is also hooked on the same stylish Uptown eatery as everyone else.
“I think my favorite place to go is Chino Latino,” he said.
Boasting some drool-inducing catches courtesy of Frisbee-sized hands that quarterback Christian Ponder deemed “freakish,” some have said Rudolph has potential to dominate much like star tight end Rob Gronkowski of New England.
Rudolph doesn’t hold modest career goals, either, and seeing he’s finally recovered from the hamstring injury that hampered him last year, goals could become realities soon enough.
The Kenny Chesney superfan recently took time to talk about his offseason trips to Cabo San Lucas, and how it’ll be playing alongside another Notre Dame tight end in 2012.
How do you feel about heading to Mankato and getting started on your second season?
I’m really excited going into the year. I feel a lot more comfortable. I know what to expect. I’ve already gone through it once. Last year, with the lockout, we didn’t have time to work with our teammates.
What was the highlight of your offseason?
I went on a vacation for a week in Cabo San Lucas (Mexico) with friends from Notre Dame. I really enjoyed that.
How does it feel to be back to 100 percent after the hamstring injury?
It’s a relief. I had a few people tell me I’ll never be normal again. Now I don’t even think about it.
You’ve previously said that 40-yard-dashes have little to do with how you play on the field? How so?
There’s different things you can take from it that will translate, like your 10-yard start and your explosiveness. That had been taken away with the hamstring surgery. I had lost all of it. Good route runners have that explosiveness in and out of breaks.
When you say you want to be the best tight end ever, who do you consider to be the best ever and why?
Just in my lifetime, and the guys that I’ve watched, Tony Gonzalez is by far the best. Physically, to do to what he has done for 15 years, he’s up there with the best receivers of all time.
What’ll you need to improve upon to be the best ever?
For me, it’s just being a complete tight end — working every day to being a better run blocker, and pass catcher, so I can be on the field in all situations.
What are your 2012 goals?
I don’t really have production goals. If we go on out on a Sunday and I have 10 catches and we lose, then I didn’t do enough. If I have two catches and we win, then that’s what matters.
How much of an impact do you think you and fellow Notre Dame alum and tight end John Carlson will make this year?
I feel like the tight end position will be really important for what our offense does, and it’ll make our offense go. If we can make plays at tight end, that’ll open up things for other positions.
Does anyone have better hands than you?
I definitely feel my hands are one of my assets. I want to pride myself on anytime that the ball is thrown in my direction, I want to be able to make that catch. You never know when you’ll get another ball come your way.
What’s the weirdest thing a fan has asked for?
It’s always weird when people want personal items signed, like cell phones and stuff they use every day.
How close did you get to finishing up your degree at Notre Dame?
I am two semesters short. I was a business major. (He has promised his parents that he’d finish his degree after he left college early for the NFL draft.)
What do you miss most about Cincinnati, and being back home?
I think the biggest thing I miss about home is the people. I miss going to the high school games on Friday, and basketball games during the winter with my family.
Do you get noticed in the Twin Cities as a Vikings player? Or has that not quite taken effect?
It was nice last year with the lockout, we could fly under the radar a lot. But being up here for a year, you start to get noticed a bit more. As long as they’re Vikings fans, we don’t mind it. I was a football fan before I was a player.
When I was a kid, I loved seeing high school, college and NFL players. The players always signed autographs for me. So I always sign for anyone who asks.