Notre Dame's sophomore tight end, Kyle Rudolph, was informed that he has been named as one of the 30 players on the John Mackey award preseason watch list. He is the only sophomore on the list this year.
The highly touted tight end came into Notre Dame with expectations piling up. The expectations increased when we learned that Rudolph would start as a freshman after Mike Ragone tore an ACL last preseason.
However, Rudolph, with his excellent size, proved that he could play straight out of the gates. With improvement in Jimmy Clausen's protection, the credit was laid at the feet of the offensive line last season, which was well deserved. However, having a player like Rudolph blocking was sure to help, and he probably deserves more credit than he gets for his blocking skills.
Rudolph has the privilege of being the only freshman tight end in Notre Dame school history to start every game at his position. He did not disappoint, bringing in 29 receptions for 340 yards and two scores. Now that Clausen knows what he can do, he is sure to look to him more frequently in the 2009 season.
Rudolph is a nightmare for defenders, as he manages to cause mismatches right across the field.
The John Mackey award was first awarded in 2008, and winners of the award have to excel in many different areas other than athletic ability.
It is awarded to the player that best exemplifies the best player on the field, the best academics in the class room, the best sportsmanship to opponents and help within the community.
Some great tight ends have taken home the prize, including Dallas Clark, Kellen Winslow II and Heath Miller.
The award is named after Hall-of-Fame tight end John Mackey, who played for the Baltimore Colts and later with the San Diego Chargers. Mackey was named to five Pro Bowls, three All-Pro teams, and was elected as a member of the 1960 decade team.
He was the second pure tight end inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, after Mike Ditka of the Bears.
In 2007, Syracuse retired the No. 88 jersey that Mackey had worn during his time there.
Rudolph may not win the award. Realistically, he probably won't, but he should be honored to be placed on the watch list.
The winner will be announced on Dec. 10.