The Pro Bowl may be of limited interest to casual football fans, but, with the game itself on the line – Commissioner Roger Goodell had threatened to cancel the game due to the lax nature of the effort provided by the players – it was expected that the stars were going to give a stronger push to prove the game is a viable product.
As a result, many thought that someone like Adrian Peterson, who refuses to go half-speed at any time, would be one of the shining stars of the game. Instead, it was tight end Kyle Rudolph who won the Most Valuable Player award.
Rudolph was selected to the Pro Bowl roster only after veteran Tony Gonzalez opted out after his Falcons lost out to San Francisco for the Super Bowl last Sunday. Rudolph caught five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown – all in the first half when the result of the game was still in question – and he had a chance for a touchdown in the second half, but, on an improvised play by Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin undercut Rudolph like a safety to make the catch and go in for the score.
His MVP award was deserved, but, seeing as that a week earlier, he wasn’t even on the NFC roster, Rudolph said in a postgame interview on NBC that he couldn’t have imagined a week that started and ended so differently.
“I never would have dreamed this in my wildest dreams,” Rudolph said. “Just to be here for this week was truly an honor.”
It would have been easy to give the award to Wilson, who didn’t complete a pass to Rudolph, despite completing eight of 10 throws and three of them for touchdowns. Yet, Rudolph was awarded, having his name put on a trophy that bears the names of players like Otto Graham, Chuck Bednarik, Ollie Mattson, Johnny Unitas, Big Daddy Lipscomb, Jim Brown, Fran Tarkenton, Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson, Walter Payton, Dan Fouts, Reggie White, Bruce Smith, Marshall Faulk, Jerry Rice, Peyton Manning, Larry Fitzgerald and Vikings Ahmad Rashad, Randy Moss and Peterson. The only other tight end to take home the trophy was Kellen Winslow of the San Diego Chargers in 1982 – seven years before Rudolph was conceived.
Rudolph, being interviewed after the announcement by Michele Tafoya on NBC, said that he was as stunned as anyone that he was selected.
“There were a lot of great players that deserved this more than I did,” Rudolph said. “To receive this honor – to have my name on the trophy with those past players – it’s a dream come true.”
Asked where he thinks the Vikings will go next year, he hopes to see the same incremental improvement that Minnesota saw in 2012.
“I expect us to make the next jump,” Rudolph said. “We made the jump from my first year to my second year. We need to put in that same effort this offseason to make that next jump from a 10-6 team to farther in the playoffs.”
On a night that the NFL was hammering home the point of players making an effort, nobody embodied that spirit more than Rudolph. He has put his name among the elite and perhaps given a sense of entitlement to the Pro Bowl as a viable football game that deserves fan interest.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.