Every now and again, an athlete sustains an injury that makes even the crustiest old-timer wince in pain. When Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph's hamstring injury was described as a hamstring that tore completely from the bone and will require surgery, the mere thought of that type of injury causes grown men to wince.
Although Rudolph entered the 2010 season nursing a bad hamstring, all seemed right with the world when he ripped off a 95-yard touchdown reception in the second game of the season versus Michigan.
The joy was short-lived—Rudolph played in four more games last season but never looked completely comfortable after the Michigan game.
When Rudolph underwent season-ending surgery in mid-October, the prognosis was in the neighborhood of six months recovery time. Less than six months removed from going under the knife, Rudolph made some serious waves at Thursday's pro day in South Bend.
With 40-yard dash times of 4.78 and 4.8 Rudolph weren't very far off the 4.6 time that he brought to Notre Dame with him from Elder High School in Cincinnati. With his sure hands and ability to make catches along the seams, Rudolph could very well be the first tight end taken in the 2011 NFL draft.
While there are some good tight ends coming out this year, most notably Luke Stoker out of Tennessee, D.J. Williams of Arkansas and Lance Kendricks of Wisconsin, Rudolph's total body of work might separate him from the rest of the pack.
Although Rudolph missed three games as a sophomore (shoulder) and seven as a junior (hamstring), these should be judged as isolated injuries and not put any type of injury-prone tag on him.The numbers from his pro day workout are as follows: 34.5-inch vertical, 9'5" broad jump, 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, 7.24 three-cone, 12.30/12.33 in the 60-yard shuttle.
Rudolph will possibly be the first tight end taken in the 2011 NFL draft—he should go anywhere between Nos. 20 and 40, quite possibly to a team like Atlanta or Buffalo.
But as everyone knows, the draft is a funny situation. What seems like a possibility today could change overnight.
One thing is certain: Wherever Kyle Rudolph lands, that team will be getting another quality tight end out of Notre Dame, a school that has sent six tight ends to the NFL since 2001.