Thielen reflects about Vikings’ move out of Mankato

Published 8:11 am Monday, August 7, 2017

MANKATO— Over their 52 summers holding training camp at Minnesota State University in Mankato, there’s hardly a player in Vikings history more synonymous with this hilltop campus than Adam Thielen.

Four years ago, Thielen was the NFL long shot who kept making diving catches during practice and drawing praise for his instinct and precision, doing exactly what an undrafted NCAA Division II product needed to do to make the roster.

Now he’s an integral part of Minnesota’s offense, with a big contract coming off a breakout season. After accumulating in 2016 a team-leading 967 yards receiving and 69 catches, including five touchdowns, Thielen signed through 2020 for nearly $10 million guaranteed.

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He’ll never forget that strong first impression he made in 2013, though.

“That just gave me confidence and kind of jolted me into having the ability to make the team,” Thielen said, adding: “I’m just fortunate that, looking back on it, those things kind of went my way early in camp, because I think it could’ve easily gone the other way.”

There was hardly a bottom-of-the-roster player at the time more popular than Thielen, considering he was auditioning as a pro in the same spot where he went from afterthought addition to the MSU program to star for the Mavericks.

The home-state player is always a fan favorite. The affable guy whose graduation ceremony was across the street and whose college practices were conducted on the same fields used by the Vikings to prep for the season? No contest.

“I can’t remember anybody that was a hometown hero kind of guy,” coach Mike Zimmer said.

Zimmer, who arrived in 2014, was responsible for awarding Thielen a spot on the active roster that year after a rookie season spent on the practice squad.

“He just makes plays when he gets opportunities to. That’s why he continues to get more opportunities,” Zimmer said this week. “He’s a good route runner, uses his hands well, and he’s tough. He can do a lot of dirty jobs. He’s a really good athlete, but his competitiveness I think allows him to overcome some of his other things that he doesn’t have.”