MINNEAPOLIS — Eric Kendricks has earned numerous awards and accolades for his on-field play over the years.
He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2015 NFL Draft and immediately became an important part of the Vikings' defense.
During his eight years with the Vikings, Kendricks led the team in tackles seven times.
He made the All-Pro Team in 2019 and was also the Vikings nominee for the 2020 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which is given to one NFL player every year who exemplifies philanthropy and service to their community.
On Monday morning the Vikings announced they were terminating Kendricks’ contract.
The team is struggling with a tight salary cap situation and Kendricks may be the first of many longtime veterans who will be cut from the roster before the regular season this year.
While many Vikings fans are thinking about Kendricks’ contributions to the team on the field this week, other fans and friends are thinking about Kendricks’ work off the field.
"He means so much to this community,” Kevin Reese says.
Reese works with All Square in Minneapolis. It's a restaurant/advocacy group that uses cooking and business as a way to help recently incarcerated individuals adjust to life after prison.
“This was something that was real to him,” Reese says about Kendricks.
Kendricks heard about their mission a few years ago and wanted to help.
Kendricks is a founding member of the Minnesota Vikings Social Justice Committee, which is connected to several criminal justice and racial justice groups across the Twin Cities.
“He really pulled for us and gave us those connections,” Reese explains.
"We wanted to start a fund to help people start businesses because capital is such a big roadblock for so many people,” All Square director Onika Goodluck says.“The team showed up with $250,000 towards that fund and it was like whoa. We were blown away.”
Goodluck says Kendricks also donated his time to the cause.
He frequently stopped by the restaurant to check in on their mission and to lend help where he could.
Goodluck says Kendricks is so connected to their cause that they decided to dedicate an entire wall in their restaurant to him.
“We have this article here that he signed when he was nominated for man of the year,” Goodluck says while pointing to various pictures on the wall.
Kendricks also has a sandwich named after him at the restaurant.
“We call it ‘Kendricks’ or sometimes just ‘54’ after his jersey number,” Goodluck explains. "It's a French toast bagel with eggs, candy bacon, strawberry jam and sharp cheddar."
Reese and Goodluck say the sandwich is a tribute to the sandwich Kendricks’ mom made him every day after football practice.
"We even had her put her stamp of approval on it. We asked her ‘Is this how you were making it for him?’ And she was like, 'yeah,'” Goodluck says.
Kendricks also had a big impact on the Salvation Army in Minneapolis.
“I remember last Thanksgiving he really wanted to do something for Thanksgiving,” Salvation Army spokesman Dan Furry says.
“He just contacted us and was like 'hey, I want to help out your families. Let them know that I’m going to be at this carwash, and I will hand out turkeys.'”
And that’s what they did.
The Salvation Army called 100 families who could use a free turkey last Thanksgiving and Kendricks handed them out one at a time at a local car wash because he has a love of cars.
“It was quirky. It was crazy, but it was a lot of fun,” Furry says.
Rob Williams at Every Meal also shared a fun memory of Kendricks.
“He was really involved with our group and sometimes he would just call or text me out of nowhere,” Williams explains.
Williams says one day Kendricks wanted to go out with a few Every Meal employees during one of their food deliveries.
The nonprofit group delivers food to more than 450 schools across the Twin Cities metro so that kids can have a healthy meal at home during the weekend when they can’t get free lunch at school.
“He said ‘we don’t want any cameras. Let’s just go.’ He was like 'I just want to take part in it’ and he’d go, and some kids would start recognizing him and then they would have a little time to play football with him on the playground and stuff,” Williams explains.
Kendricks has had such a profound impact on Ever Meal that Williams and his colleagues have set up a Vikings jersey in their office that has Kendricks’ number on it.
“It kind of represents his partnership with us and Every Meal,” Williams says.
A constant reminder in their office of the player and philanthropist who's now moving onto a new team.
“We will definitely miss him both on the field and off the field,” Williams says.
Reese and Goodluck agree.
"You may be leaving, but you will always be good in this hood, forever,” Reese says.