Joe Rudolph, a two-time first-team All-Big Ten guard at Wisconsin in the early 1990s, is entering his fourth season as tight ends coach at Wisconsin, while as serving as the program's recruiting coordinator.
In his time at UW, Rudolph has coached Travis Beckum, Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks, each of whom has been picked in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft. A tight end has led the Badgers in receving in four of the last five years and five Badger tight ends have been drafted in the last six years.
Kendricks led the way in 2010. A finalist for the John Mackey Award, he paced Wisconsin with 43 catches for 663 yards and five touchdowns. In addition, Kendricks has proven invaluable as a blocker for the Badgers' high-powered rushing attack. Kendricks ranked third among all FBS tight ends in receiving yards.
As the Badger offense usually employs multiple-TE sets, Jacob Pedersen and Jake Byrne also made their mark last season. Pedersen, a redshirt freshman, caught eight passes, two for touchdowns, while Byrne started eight games and hauled in five passes. On the year, UW tight ends caught 56 passes for 838 yards and eight touchdowns.
Kendricks became the first Badger since Travis Beckum in 2007 to record back-to-back 100-yard receiving games when he tallied 103 receiving yards and one TD on six catches vs. Austin Peay one week after a career-high seven receptions for 131 yards and one score in win over Arizona State. Kendricks won consecutive John Mackey Tight End of the Week honors for those two games.
In 2009, Badger tight ends accounted for 86 catches, 1,014 yards and 10 touchdowns. The group was led by first-team All-Big Ten selection Garrett Graham. Graham finished his career with 1,492 receiving yards, 11th-best in school history. His 121 career receptions are tied for sixth in school history while his 16 career receiving touchdowns are tied for fifth. Graham had seven TD receptions in 2009, tied for third in the Big Ten.
Kendricks showed potential for continuing Wisconsin's stellar tight end play by catching 29 passes for 356 yards and three scores last year, including a seven-catch, 128-yard performance against Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl. Senior Mickey Turner, who along with Graham served as captains on offense, was one of the more versatile players in the Big Ten, lining up in the backfield, on the line or split out wide and was an integral part of the offense.
In his first year, 2008, Rudolph coached a talented group that was decimated by injuries throughout the season but was still a very productive unit. The top four tight ends combined to miss 14 games last year but still accounted for more than 40 percent of the team's receptions and receiving yards.
Travis Beckum, a preseason All-American, was limited to just six games and suffered a season-ending broken leg. Graham missed two games due to injury but still led the team with 40 catches, 540 yards and five touchdowns and was named first-team All-Big Ten. Kendricks was also limited to eight games due to a broken leg. Turner was the lone tight end to play all 13 games.
Rudolph served as tight ends coach at Nebraska in 2007. He also assisted on all special teams units, overseeing the punt team. Prior to his stint at Nebraska, Rudolph served as the strength coordinator (2006) and the offensive graduate assistant coach (2004-05) at Ohio State. During his time at Ohio State, the Buckeyes played in the 2004 Alamo Bowl, 2006 Fiesta Bowl and 2007 BCS National Championship game.
Rudolph's time as a graduate assistant at OSU was spent working with the offensive line. Four Buckeye offensive linemen earned All-Big Ten recognition during this period: Rob Sims (2005), Nick Mangold (2005), Doug Datish (2006) and T.J. Downing (2006).
Rudolph entered coaching after earning his master's degree in business administration in 2004 from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Rudolph played two seasons in the National Football League, earning a roster spot with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1995 before joining the San Francisco 49ers in 1997.
A standout lineman at Wisconsin, Rudolph was a member of head coach Barry Alvarez's first recruiting class at Wisconsin. He went on to earn three letters (1992-94) and help the Badgers to the 1993 Big Ten title and 1994 Rose Bowl victory. Rudolph was a Wisconsin team captain in 1994, a year that ended with a victory in the Hall of Fame Bowl on New Year's Day. A three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, Rudolph was the team's 1994 Scholastic Award winner and went on to play in the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. He earned his bachelor's degree in zoology from Wisconsin in 1995.
Rudolph is a native of Belle Vernon, Pa. He and his wife, Dawn, have two sons, Alex and Andrew.