Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen wasn’t supposed to be this good.
He wasn’t supposed to rack up 1,000 receiving yards (with a few games left in the season, might I add) in a season. He wasn’t supposed to be a top option for one of the best teams in the NFL (currently, the Vikings hold a 9-2 record, which is tied for the second-best record in the league). He wasn’t supposed to rack up 150-plus receiving yards in a game, which he has already done twice during the 2017 season.
Adam Thielen was not supposed to be a star in the NFL … but he is.
At the time of writing, the Viking has the third-most receiving yards in the NFL with 1,005, and that total lands him at No. 1 in the receiving department on Minnesota.
You see, Thielen went undrafted, and his college ball days were spent at Minnesota State.
While he didn’t receive much buzz in his first couple of seasons in the NFL, he managed to rack up 967 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2016, and he is, in fact, a star this season. If you think labeling him a “star” is too much, then hopefully we can all agree that he is one of the top WR in the NFL this year (his stats tell that story).
It’s amazing to think he went from, as this ESPN article put it, “idolizing Randy Moss to sharing a stat line.”
Thielen spent his formative years watching Randy Moss’ high-flying heroics ignite the fan base inside the Metrodome and spark a Hall of Fame career. As a kid, Thielen aimed to mimic the moves that made Moss — and his other Vikings favorite, Cris Carter — the best receivers of their day.
In a picture that has made the rounds on NFL broadcasts this season, a young Thielen paid tribute to his football hero on Halloween, wearing Moss’ No. 84 jersey, eye black and Moss’ signature bandana to complete the look.
Thielen crossed a surreal threshold during Minnesota’s 24-7 win over the Rams on Sunday, when he became the first Vikings player to reach 900 receiving yards in the first 10 games of the season since Moss did so in 2003 (he also did it in 2000).
“Obviously, Randy is an idol of mine, a guy who made me want to play the game and made me want to play receiver,” Thielen said. “I’m very thankful for what he did for me and this game. I have a lot of respect for him, but I’m really not even thinking about stats right now or anything like that. Just trying to win games.”
Thielen’s undrafted-to-NFL-star story is a great one, and it just goes to show that as long as you put in the work … anything is possible, especially for someone as talented as Thielen.
The 27-year-old is not only having a great season from a statistic standpoint but he is also a big reason why the Vikings have been so successful on the offensive side of the ball in 2017 (of course, a lot of props need to be given to quarterback Case Keenum, among other players). Minnesota is averaging 24.6 points per game, which is good enough for eighth-best in the league.
So many factors have played into the Vikings being a top team in the NFL, but one factor that can’t go unnoticed is the play of — you guessed it — Thielen.
This Sports Illustrated article really helps to put things into perspective:
There are underdog stories, and then there’s the story of Adam Thielen’s road to the NFL. Thielen grew up in Detroit Lakes, Minn., rooting for the Vikings and playing wide receiver, the same position as his favorite Vikings, Randy Moss and Cris Carter. He attended Minnesota State on a $500 football scholarship, borrowed money from his father to attend a regional combine, went undrafted in 2013 but earned an invite to Vikings camp, spent that season on the practice squad, and eventually worked his way onto the roster as a special teams ace.
While Thielen has already cracked the 1,000-yard mark in 2017, Minnesota still has five games left in the regular season. And, for all it’s worth, the Vikings have won seven games in a row.
More from the SI article mentioned above:
Rohan: Before you tried out for the Vikings, someone got you an interview for a dental equipment sales internship, right? What do you remember about that interview? How close were you to doing that?
Thielen: I accepted the job, because at that time I didn’t know what was going to happen. At that time I hadn’t gone to the Super Regional yet. The draft hadn’t happened yet. I accepted the internship, and it was going to start after school was done. I was just kind of playing it out.
The one thing I do remember from that interview was one of the questions. You know, they ask a lot of different questions, random questions. One of them was, what would your dream job be? What would you do if you could have any job in the world? I said, play in the NFL. We both kind of laughed after I said it. It’s kind of funny, looking back at that.
The Vikings saw something in Thielen that the other 31 teams in the NFL did not, and it has turned out to be very beneficial for both parties (Minnesota and Thielen, that is).
Via the SI article mentioned above:
Every step of my journey. I had a coach when I was getting recruited say maybe you should play basketball at a Division III level, because you’re not good enough to play football in college. Same with the NFL. When I said I was going to train for the NFL and try to make it, I had coaches say, hey maybe you should find a [real] job or try to play in the Arena League or something like that.
I’ve always had that, which is great for me. I love that. I love when people doubt me. I love when people don’t think that I’m good enough to play at a certain level, not good enough to be a starter, things like that. That’s the stuff that drives me. That’s the stuff that I think about constantly when I’m out there working at practice.
Adam Thielen has arrived (in a big way, might I add).