From Undrafted to Undoubted: How Adam Thielen Built a Successful Career

Born in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, Adam Thielen naturally became a Vikings’ fan and looked up to legends like Randy Moss and Cris Carter. He had dreams of playing receiver at the NFL level, but coming out of high school he was not a highly recruited prospect. With a strong love for the game of football but no Division 1 offers, the Minnesota native decided to stay home and play Division 2 football at Minnesota State University Mankato. After a redshirt year, he played a significant role for his team during his 4 years at Mankato from 2008-2012 and looked ahead to the NFL draft.

Thielen unfortunately went undrafted in 2013 and had to attend tryouts to earn a roster spot. He spent $250 on a regional combine to show off his skills. If it went poorly, he would have to consider calling it quits on a career. Thielen’s fallback plan would be to become a dental assistant. In a post college interview for a dental position, he was asked what his dream job would be. He told the interviewer that his dream was to play in the NFL and proceeded to get laughed at. It didn’t deter him and he traveled to Chicago for the regional combine where he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash that put him on the radar of NFL teams. He received the opportunity to try out for the Vikings and made the most out of it.

The Vikings offered Thielen a contract and he quickly accepted a 3 year, 1.48 million dollar contract. This was a life changing deal for a kid who wasn’t sure if he would ever see the field again. After a strong pre-season campaign in 2014, he earned a roster spot. In his first two seasons, he was primarily a special teams player and rarely saw the field on the offensive side of the ball. In 2016, he got his chance. With leading receiver Stefon Diggs sidelined, he got meaningful snaps at receiver. On Christmas Eve, he put on a show in Lambeau against the Packers. His final tally included 202 yards and 2 touchdowns. Only the 5th time in Vikings history had a receiver eclipsed 200 receiving yards in a game. He continued his impressive career with over 1,000 yards in 2017. Then in 2018 with new QB Kirk Cousins, he put on a historic start to the year. The star receiver tied Calvin Johnson’s record of straight 100 yard games at 8. This caused him to become widely recognized across the league as a top receiver and earned him Pro Bowl accolades for the second time.

In the last couple years, Thielen’s production has slowed. He has become more of a red zone threat as his speed and athleticism have decreased. With the emergence of Justin Jefferson as the number 1 receiver in the offense his role has been reduced. It is still crucial that he continues to be a solid number 2 option and mentor Justin Jefferson. From humble beginnings to a humble hometown NFL star, Adam Thielen’s legacy will be remembered for his toughness and perseverance.
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