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FEATURE:

Adam Thielen’s Impeccable Journey

By: Hans Maybach

If someone were to ask you three years ago who Adam Thielen was, chances are you wouldn’t know. Now, if asked people would be like how do you not know who that is; he is one if not THE best receiver in the NFL. Imagine starting from nothing to be the best at what you do; that’s what Adam Thielen had do to earn his way in the NFL. This is the story of how Adam Thielen went from nothing to something.

Adam Thielen was born in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota where he attended Detroit Lakes High School and played wide receiver for his high school football team. Adam Thielen grew up rooting for the Vikings and idolized Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter, trying to imitate his famous tiptoe sideline catches in his own backyard as a child. He also played basketball and helped lead his high school Lakers to a 9-1 season and was an All-Conference and All-State selection in his senior year not to mention being a part of the golf team that won 2A state championship.

Adam Thielen would attend Minnesota State Mankato University for college but would redshirt his first season. Thielen then in his freshman year would go on to catch 21 passes for 252 yards and a touchdown, playing in only nine games. As a sophomore in 2010, Thielen started all 11 games and was named Minnesota State’s Offensive Player of the Year in addition to Second Team All-NSIC south division selection after he led the team with 41 receptions for 686 yards and six touchdowns. In 2011, he started all 12 games and was a Second-Team All-NSIC South Division selection for the second-straight season as he hauled in 62 passes for 715 yards and five touchdowns on offense and also handled kick return (three kicks for 77 yards and a score) and punt return duties (22 punts for 217 yards). During the 2012 season, Thielen became the main target for Minnesota State's passing attack and was again the team's starting kick and punt returner, helping the Mavericks to a 13-1 record, as they advanced to the NCAA Semi Finals. He led the Minnesota State receiving corps with 74 receptions for a total of 1,176 yards (15.9 avg) and eight touchdowns. For his efforts, Thielen was named NSIC South Division All-NSIC First Team, the Daktronics Super Region No. 3 Second Team, and Don Hansen Super Region Second Team. Thielen finished near the top of several career receiving categories after his four years at Minnesota State including finishing second in receiving yards (2,802), second in receptions (198), and third in touchdown catches (20). As a Maverick, he notched five 100-yard receiving games, including a career-high of 167 against Southwest Minnesota State in 2012.

Thielen would go to enter the 2013 NFL Draft out of Mankato University and would fall undrafted, but on May 6, the Minnesota Vikings signed Thielen to a three-year 1.48 million dollar contract. On August 31, 2013, the Minnesota Vikings waived Thielen as part of their final roster cuts (along with 18 others) but was signed to the practice squad the next day. Thielen made his NFL debut in the season opening game at St. Louis on September 9. In Week 5, he caught his first NFL pass in the Vikings' 42-10 loss at Green Bay, finishing the game with four receptions for 57 yards that led the team in receiving. For the season, Thielen totaled eight catches for 137 yards (17.1 avg) and a touchdown on offense.

Also, a special teams ace, Thielen was named to the All-Pro Special Teams Kick Return Unit and was named All-NFC North Special Team Player of the Year by Pro Football Focus (PFF) after he finished tied for second in the team in special teams tackles with 12 (9 of them solo). In 2015, Thielen was honored as the Vikings Special Teams Player of the Year. His seven special team tackles ranked tied for second on the team.

After having entered the 2016 season as an underdog, Thielen ended up leading the Vikings with 967 receiving yards, while also adding a career-high 69 catches and five touchdowns. His 10.0 yards per target and 75.0% catch rate ranked in the top five players among NFL wide receivers. Thielen dropped only two passes on 92 targets according to Sporting Charts, and Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 18th best receiver in the league.

On March 15, 2017, Thielen signed a three-year contract extension with the Vikings. He became the first Vikings receiver to surpass the 1,000-yard mark since Sidney Rice in 2009. On December 19, 2017, Thielen was named to his first Pro Bowl. Going into the 2018 season, Thielen had a new quarterback in Kirk Cousins. Thielen started the season with four consecutive games with at least 100 receiving yards to start the season, he joined Randy Moss and Isaac Bruce as the only players in the Super Bowl era to accomplish the feat.  As of Week 8, he had 100 yards in each of the first eight games of the year, which is tied with Calvin Johnson for the record for most consecutive 100-yard games in a year. By doing so, he also broke the record for most consecutive 100 -yard games to start a season in NFL history with this Thielen is on pace to set an NFL record for most receiving yards in a season, most receptions in a season, and most receiving yards by a Minnesota Viking in a season.

Thielen has earned his way to be one of the best receivers in the league if not the best in the league and just made his second Pro-Bowl in 2019. Imagine starting as a guy that nobody wanted to now where everybody in league wants you for anything. That’s the story of Adam Thielen, the NFL receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.