Craig: Vikings teammates Rudolph, Carlson have unique bond

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 13, 2013 - 11:31 AM
hide

Minnesota Vikings tight end John Carlson.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Rivals.com chose Cincinnati Elder’s Kyle Rudolph as the No. 1 high school tight end in the country in 2007. Michigan, Tennessee and the home-state Buckeyes were in the mix to sign the lanky 6-6, 220-pounder. But Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis had the recruiting tool that trumped all others.

“He had John Carlson,” Rudolph said of his current Vikings teammate. “Every time I visited South Bend, Coach Weis always made sure John was my host.”

Weis had done his homework. He knew what Carlson, a senior tight end at the time, meant to Rudolph.

“The whole time I was in high school, I talked to my dad [Dan], who is a football coach, about who I wanted to be like,” Rudolph said. “It was always, ‘I want to be like John. One day maybe I’ll be able to do what John did at Notre Dame.’ I always looked up to John.”

Carlson, who is quiet, remembers meeting Rudolph, who might have been even quieter.

“He wasn’t nearly as thick as he is now,” Carlson said. “He was just this very tall, very skinny kid. They kept telling me he was going to be someone special.”

On Rudolph’s first visit, they went to see the movie “300,” a tale about King Leonidas leading 300 Spartans into battle against 300,000 Persians. Rudolph was outnumbered as well.

“It was John, me and Danielle,” said Rudolph, referring to Carlson’s then-girlfriend, former Notre Dame volleyball captain and current wife. “It was a pretty cool time though.”

Rudolph chose Notre Dame. Carlson went on to the NFL, joining Seattle as the 38th overall draft pick before catching 12 touchdown passes in his first two seasons. Three years later, Rudolph went on to the NFL, joining the Vikings as the 43rd overall pick before catching 12 touchdowns in his first two seasons.

Last year, Carlson, a Litchfield, Minn., native, returned home, leaving his visit with the Chiefs to sign a five-year, $25 million deal with the Vikings. The plan was in place to incorporate both pass-catching tight ends into an offense that would attempt to mimic what the Patriots were able to do with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

But the plan was scrapped. A knee injury in training camp cost Carlson the entire preseason and a concussion interrupted his regular season.

“Last year was frustration,” Carlson said. “It was just setback after setback. Injuries happen in football, but it was disappointing for them to happen when they did, joining a new team and wanting to prove myself to everybody. It was tough to not feel like I was contributing.”

A concussion had knocked Carlson out of a divisional playoff game at Chicago during the 2010 season. A shoulder injury had landed him on injured reserve for all of 2011. And 2012 would end with a mere eight catches for 43 yards.

“The worst part had to be the first four to six weeks in 2011,” Carlson said. “I didn’t have an active role in anything. My arm was in a sling, I couldn’t rehab yet and for the first time, I’m on injured reserve. So, really, it was the first time since I was a young kid that I wasn’t a part of a team. That hit me harder than I thought it would, just not having football as part of my identity, part of my life.”

Carlson has been healthy for all nine games this season. And his blocking has, according to coach Leslie Frazier, “improved vastly.” But it wasn’t until last Thursday’s 34-27 victory over Washington that Carlson regained some of his long lost identity as a pass-catching threat.

Of course, it took Rudolph’s fractured left foot to provide Carlson with the kind of opportunities he hadn’t seen since 2009. Playing Rudolph’s ‘Y’ tight end spot, Carlson responded with seven catches for 98 yards and his first touchdown since the 2010 postseason.

He entered the game with 11 catches on the season and hadn’t caught seven passes in a game since 2009. And the yardage total was 7 shy of the career high he posted as a rookie.

Next up: a trip back to Seattle to face his former team for the first time. Carlson missed last year’s meeting because of a concussion.

“It’s funny how things work out,” Rudolph said when asked about the guy he looked up to filling in as his backup. “I’m extremely proud of what he was able to do. That was the John Carlson that I’ve known since I was a senior in high school.”

 

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Asiata returns to Vikings with heavy heart

    Wednesday November 13, 2013

    The running back's father was killed in a bus accident two weeks ago.

  • Mark Craig's Week 11 NFL power rankings

    Tuesday November 12, 2013

    Week 11 power rankings1. Broncos 8-12. Seahawks 9-13. Chiefs 9-04. Patriots 7-25. Panthers 6-36. Lions 6-37. Saints 7-28. 49ers 6-39. Jets 5-410. Cardinals 5-411. Rams 4-612. Colts 6-313. Giants 3-614. Eagles 5-515. Ravens 4-516. Bengals 6-417....

  • Read the replay: Access Vikings Live Chat with Chip Scoggins

    Monday September 9, 2013

    See what Chip Scoggins and Vikings fans were talking about during their weekly Live Chat.

  • Target Center vote resurrects Vikings debate

    Tuesday November 12, 2013

    Minneapolis City Council gave a green light to nearly $100 million in improvements and fought over whether law needed to...

  • Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) broke away from a Dallas defender...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa 0 Top 6th Inning
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 64 3rd Qtr 3:10
Chicago 67
Cleveland 2:30 PM
Houston
Golden State 5:00 PM
Boston
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Indiana
Portland 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Charlotte 5:00 PM
Orlando
Oklahoma City 5:30 PM
LA Lakers
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Denver
Los Angeles 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Tampa Bay 4:00 PM
Florida
Columbus 4:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Dallas
St. Louis 8:30 PM
Vancouver
SMU 14 1st Half 5:46
Connecticut 24
Quinnipiac 23 1st Half 5:51
Manhattan 26
Fairfield 20 1st Half 6:38
Niagara 16
Marist 19 1st Half 3:42
Rider 13
Iona 20 1st Half 3:34
Saint Peters 33
Oregon State 2:00 PM
California
South Florida 2:00 PM
Houston
Marquette 2:30 PM
Providence
Michigan State 3:00 PM
Wisconsin
Siena 3:30 PM
Monmouth
Pittsburgh 5:30 PM
Wake Forest
Oregon 6:00 PM
Stanford
Purdue 6:30 PM
Ohio State
Arizona State 7:30 PM
Colorado
Washington St 8:30 PM
UCLA
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 44 2nd Half 6:42
UMBC 55
Elon 54 2nd Half 8:00
Hofstra 40
Virginia Tech 47 2nd Half 3:30
Boston College 40
(8) Louisville 49 2nd Half 5:40
Virginia 54
Texas 56 2nd Half 5:20
West Virginia 46
Creighton 47 2nd Half 3:50
Villanova 51
Seton Hall 67 2nd Half 2:00
Butler 72
UNC-Wilmington 63 2nd Half 7:40
Coll of Charleston 44
(5) Maryland 62 2nd Half 3:32
(25) Northwestern 43
Saint Josephs 57 2nd Half 2:48
La Salle 50
Louisiana Tech 39 2nd Half 8:50
TX-San Antonio 45
Rhode Island 23 1st Half 5:14
Massachusetts 23
Richmond 12 1st Half 6:20
VA Commonwealth 17
Davidson 15 1st Half 3:48
Fordham 27
St Bonaventure 23 1st Half 3:23
Duquesne 20
George Mason 11 1st Half 5:50
(22) George Washington 33
Indiana 21 1st Half 4:26
(20) Rutgers 24
(12) Texas A&M 12 1st Half 9:30
LSU 26
Ole Miss 15 1st Half 3:58
(11) Miss State 20
Clemson 24 1st Half 2:30
Pittsburgh 16
Maine 21 1st Half 2:09
New Hampshire 21
Vermont 17 1st Half 3:10
Albany 28
Quinnipiac 19 1st Half 6:58
Monmouth 15
Saint Peters 20 1st Half 3:38
Siena 25
(4) Notre Dame 30 1st Half 4:25
NC State 25
Wisconsin 31 1st Half 3:48
Penn State 20
Stony Brook 13 1st Half 6:09
Hartford 14
Northeastern 18 1st Half 3:43
William & Mary 26
St Johns 23 1st Half 3:42
Xavier 18
James Madison 28 1st Half 3:45
Delaware 33
Towson 2:00 PM
Drexel
Illinois State 2:00 PM
Bradley
Southern Ill 2:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
Northern Iowa 2:00 PM
Wichita State
Minnesota 2:00 PM
(17) Iowa
(15) North Carolina 2:00 PM
(16) Duke
Alabama 2:00 PM
Auburn
(9) Florida State 2:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Arkansas 2:00 PM
Missouri
Georgia 2:00 PM
Florida
Dayton 2:00 PM
Saint Louis
Drake 2:05 PM
Missouri State
Colorado 3:00 PM
(10) Arizona State
(19) Stanford 3:00 PM
Oregon
Marquette 3:00 PM
DePaul
Southern Miss 3:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Vanderbilt 4:00 PM
(6) Tennessee
(2) South Carolina 4:00 PM
(13) Kentucky
Utah 4:00 PM
Arizona
Ohio State 4:00 PM
Nebraska
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: With Adrian Peterson's suspension overturned, what should the Vikings do?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close