Kyle Rudolph on the Vikings' Culture and His Commitment to the Community
You might know Kyle Rudolph best for his relentless play during Monday Night Football or highlights of his athletic catches on SportsCenter. But if you pay attention, you’ll see that the Minnesota Vikings’ number 82 also gives 100 percent off the field. In this follow-up article (check out Kyle’s guide to recovery here), Kyle shares about his evolving leadership role, his kids’ camp, and the spirit of service behind his two Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominations.
What's the secret sauce to the Vikings’ strong locker room culture?
I think the biggest thing is starting with the kind of people that you bring into the team. When you recruit good people and you bring in guys of high character, it makes it easy to have a culture of cohesiveness. If you don't put emphasis on high-character individuals, then you’re trying to bring in the best football players that you can bring in. This can lead to division from within, and you might not necessarily create the culture that you're looking for.
At this stage in your career, how do you view your role on the field for the team and as a leader?
It's interesting how your role in the locker room, and on the field as a leader change over time. I still feel like it was just yesterday that I was a 21-year-old rookie who had all these dreams and aspirations of playing in the NFL, and then I finally realized that I was here. All I wanted to do was help our team win football games, and I tried to go about my business in a way which always proved to my older teammates that I could be counted on. I didn't say a whole lot. I’ve always let my play on the field show the other guys in the locker room who I am.
Now that I’m coming up on 10 years in the NFL, I try to always stick to that same philosophy because that's me. I'm more of a person that's going to lead by example, than be highly vocal. With that being said, when you're in the league for almost a decade, you develop skills as a leader, and I feel like now I know when there's a time and a place to speak up. You're only a leader if people are willing to follow you. And as a player, I never wanted to follow someone who was constantly a rah-rah guy, and always trying to motivate and talk to the guys. When you lead by example and you occasionally interject vocally, it seems to have more power.
In addition to the Vikings having a strong roster, you also have a team of world-leading experts. What have you learned from the strength and conditioning staff?
You hit the nail on the head when you talked about how strong our staff is. It's from the top down, with our head coach and offensive coordinator. This year we brought in Gary Kubiak as our offensive advisor. He has been part of five Super Bowls, so he brings unbelievable experience in terms of winning championships.
Then you work your way down to the strength staff, and Uye [Vikings head S+C coach and Momentous Performance Engineer Mark Uyeyama] is one of the best coaches I've ever had. One of the things that he does so well for me as a football player, is reinforce that it doesn't make sense for me to stray too far from what is required of me on Sundays. So it's great in theory if I can do all these crazy agility drills, or if I can bench press 225 pounds as many times as possible. But if they don't correlate with me performing better on the football field, then how does it help me become a better player? And that's one of the things that Uye does so well. And throughout the course of our off-season training, we never really strayed too far from what is required of us on the football field. And I think at this point in my career, that’s really helped me take my game to another level.
Why did you decide to start your kids' camp?
I always went to youth camps as a kid. It was what I looked forward to every summer. Now I get the opportunity to give back to the young football players all across the Twin Cities.
What does it mean to you to be nominated twice for the Walter Payton Man NFL of the Year Award?
I think the best thing about being a professional athlete is that you’re given an opportunity to impact and change lives for the better. I tell people all the time, that my wife, Jordan, and I feel like we'd be wasting a great opportunity to do good if we didn't use our platform for that purpose. Being nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award twice is awesome. It's an unbelievable award to be associated with, and a great fraternity of men to be mentioned in the same category as. But receiving recognition is not why anybody that's nominated for the award is doing the things that they're doing in their communities. They're truly passionate about making a difference in the world.
How has your approach to nutrition changed since you first came into the league?
I’ve taken nutrition seriously since my junior year of high school. I took a summer class with some other players on nutrition for athletes to learn what I should be putting in my body, so I could make myself the best athlete possible.
My nutritional goals have certainly changed since. Back then it was all about gaining mass and getting bigger. Nowadays, not so much. It’s about eating the proper foods and taking supplements like Momentous that allow my body to recover faster and replenish the tissue I’m breaking down during workouts, while just maintaining a certain weight, or even losing a little weight.
Why did you decide to become a Momentous ambassador?
The introduction from Uye was important. I only work with brands whose products I use, enjoy, and believe in. Momentous works for me as an athlete and I trust the company, so I’m happy to back them.
What does Momentous being NSF Certified for Sport mean to you?
If a supplement is not NSF Certified, then you can't believe that what's on the label is actually in the product. And for me personally, I would have a really hard time taking a product that's not NSF Certified when my job, my livelihood, and my reputation are on the line. One of the things I used to worry about was cross-contamination. Even if the supplement I was taking was clean, how could I know that something else a company made in the same facility didn’t contain a banned substance? That isn’t a concern with NSF Certified for Sport products like AbsoluteZero. Part of the reason why I exclusively take Momentous protein now is the peace of mind I get knowing that it’s tried, true, and tested, so I don't have to wonder about what I’ve got in my shake.
Looking ahead, what are your main goals for your team and yourself?
My goal is simple: I want to be part of the first team to win a Super Bowl in the Vikings organization.