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Thielen making strides at Vikings' training camp

Detroit Lakes native Adam Thielen skies for a ball during the first day of Vikings' training camp in Mankato, Friday, July 26. BRIAN WIERIMA/DETROIT LAKES NEWSPAPERS 1 / 2
Adam Thielen (19) tries and run down Rodney Smith (83) during a punt return drill Friday in Mankato. 2 / 2

For the last five years, Detroit Lakes native Adam Thielen was one of the thousands of fans watching his favorite NFL team holding training camp on the same field he eventually would star on for the Minnesota State University Mankato Maverick football team.

Thielen is a fan no more, instead he has a much different perspective now that he is wearing a different shade of purple and wearing the horns of the Minnesota Vikings during this year’s training camp in Mankato.

“It’s weird being on the other side of the fence,” said Thielen, who has been on the Vikings’ roster since being signed out of a rookie minicamp earlier this spring. “My confidence is rising each day I’m on the field.”

Thielen’s rise in confidence on his performance with the Vikings has been contagious and he is being noticed by his bosses.

On the first day of training camp, Thielen skied high for a catch over cornerback Josh Robinson, coming down hard, but holding onto the ball.

It’s a scene Detroit Lakes’ and MSU-Mankato fans have seen on a constant basis, now it’s the Viking brass’ turn.

“We’ve seen some good flashes out of Adam,” said Viking offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. “He has made some special catches during OTA’s and minicamp and just yesterday (first day of training camp), he went top shelf and hauled in a nice one.

“We’ve been seeing that consistently out of Adam.”

DL head coach Flint Motschenbacher is not surprised of that, since he saw those types of catches on a daily basis when Thielen was starring for the Lakers.

“I’ve seen some of the best catches on this practice field every day from Adam when he was here,” Motschenbacher said.

Thielen has had to scrape and claw his way onto the radar of NFL teams, starting with a very productive career at MSU-Mankato, especially during his senior season where he hauled in 74 catches for 1,176 yards and eight touchdowns.

But it wasn’t until he went to a combine in Chicago, Ill., and then being invited to the Regional Combine in Dallas, Texas, where his little blip on the radar became a big one.

“Adam had great production down here in Mankato his senior year and he was on our radar, but we really got interested in him after the Regional Combine,” said Vikings’ general manager Rick Spielman. “After that we invited him to our rookie minicamp, where it worked out well for him and he showed our coaches and myself, that we needed to make a roster spot for him.”

Thielen also had an invite to take part in the Carolina Panthers rookie minicamp, but the Vikings signed him before he left Winter Park after their camp.

From then on, Thielen took part in all the Vikings’ OTA’s and minicamps, where he consistently was making play after play, which was noticed by the metro media.

KFAN’s Paul Allen, who is also the voice of the Vikings’ radio broadcasts, tweeted, “Keep hearing great things about @athielen19 and loved his work at minicamp today. Sturdy kid. Met him, too. Rube at heart. Pulling for him.”

Tom Pelissero, who worked for ESPN 1500 and now for USA Today, tweeted during an OTA practice, “Mankato product Adam Thielen seems to do something positive every practice. Just caught a go ball in stride from Cassel.”

Spielman said Thielen’s strengths were on display during the OTAs and mini-camps.

“He is fast and a very polished route runner and has excellent hands,” Spielman said. “That’s exactly what he showed during our minicamps and OTAs.”

Thielen ran a 4.45 during his Regional Combine workout and also has legit NFL size at 6-1 and 200 pounds.

Paying attention to detail and absorbing the massive playbook the Vikings employ also has been an attribute Thielen has been taking on.

“My mindset has been the same every day, to get better,” Thielen said. “The biggest thing I noticed is the attention to details during routes, you need to do all the little things right.

“The key for me now, is to do my job and know the playbook like the back of my hand. The playbook is a challenge, but I really enjoy learning it. That’s fun for me.”

Thielen is also learning plenty from some veteran NFL players such as newly-signed wide receiver Greg Jennings. He is also rooming with first-round pick receiver Cordarrelle Patterson during training camp, as they both are aiding each other as rookies in their first year.

“I’ve been watching Greg (Jennings) and how he carries himself every day,” Thielen said. “He told me from day one, be yourself. That has stuck with me ever since.”

With 12 wide receivers in camp competing for a spot on the 53-man roster or the eight-man practice squad, everything each player does will be focused under a microscope by the coaches and management.

Jennings loves the young receiving corp. and he is looking to lead them to success on the field.

“We’re growing and I love the dynamic in our room,” Jennings said. “We are young, but they are going in the right direction. I like what I’m seeing with their work ethic and all of them willing to lay it on the line for the team.”

As camp progresses, questions will start being answered, such as if the Vikings will keep six or five wide receivers, which ultimately will affect Thielen’s future with the team.

There is also the chance of making the practice squad, as well.

“Everyone will have their opportunity to compete for one of the roster spots,” Spielman said. “We have a lot of good competition at every position and I’m excited about Adam and all of our wide receivers in camp with us.”

As for Thielen, he already has made an impact on his hometown, in which is pulling for him full-heartedly.

“It’s been awesome having the communities’ support,” Thielen said. “I’ve received tons of texts and messages and it helps keep my nerves calm. I can’t thank everyone enough.”

The first preseason game for the Vikings is Friday, Aug. 9, against the Houston Texans inside the Metrodome.

The first cut will be Aug. 27, when teams need to trim their roster to 75 players, while Aug. 31, is the final cut for teams to get their roster to 53 players, as well as designating their eight-man practice squad.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.