The narrative arc of Adam Thielen’s time with the Vikings is now complete.
On Friday, Minnesota cancelled the contract of the receiver who rose from an undrafted, unheralded free agency to the top of the franchise leaderboard in a number of categories.
Thielen is third in the team’s history in catches (534) and receiving touchdowns (55), and fourth in receiving yards (6,682).
These figures, coupled with the story of his humble beginnings in his career, made Thielen a folk hero throughout the state, with resonance from the shores of Lake Superior in the north to Southwest Minnesota, from his hometown of Detroit Lakes in the northwest to Bluff Country by the Mississippi River.
When Thielen was elected Vikings Community Man of the Year in 2022 for his efforts via the Thielen Foundation, which he established in 2018, the legacy gained another chapter.
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the general manager of the Vikings, issued the following statement: “dam will always be a part of the Minnesota Vikings’ ancestry and heritage. Adam’s effect is crucial because he consistently sets the bar with his performance on the field, is a selfless teammate, and leaves a lasting impression on the neighbourhood. We are appreciative of everything that he has contributed to the Vikings organisation since joining in 2013, and I’m pleased to have had the chance to collaborate with him over the last year. He is the ideal example of what the Minnesota Vikings should stand for. I have nothing but the finest intentions for Adam, Caitlin, and their whole family.”
After a tryout at Minnesota’s rookie minicamp in 2013, Thielen made his NFL debut when he was signed. Thielen had his breakthrough in 2016 with 69 receptions for 967 yards and five touchdowns after spending most of his time on special teams and as a blocker from 2014 to 2015 (20 catches, 281 yards, and one score on 31 targets).
The Vikings offence had many changes to its offensive coordinator from 2014 to 2017, and he started every game in each of the next two seasons. Despite this, he continued to perform.
In 2018, Thielen’s first year with Kirk Cousins as his quarterback, he had career highs of 113 catches and 1,373 yards. He made NFL history by being the first player to start a season with eight straight 100-yard performances. Thielen’s nine touchdown receptions from that season were surpassed by a personal-best 14 in 2020, which is the fifth-highest total by a Viking in a single season in Viking history.
The former Minnesota State Maverick then finished 2021 with 67 catches for 726 yards and 10 touchdowns in only 13 games.
Thielen became only the fourth undrafted player in NFL history with at least 50 touchdown receptions during the first season under Kevin O’Connell, hauling in 70 passes for 716 yards and six touchdowns.
“Adam’s journey is one that many know and appreciate and an outstanding example of what a tireless pursuit of a goal can finally achieve,” O’Connell said in a statement. “Adam practised his art for more than a decade before rising to the top of the NFL’s list of wide receivers. His dedication to his home state at that period made it all the more significant for him to receive our 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year selection. In order to get our squad where we wanted it to go last season, I personally relied on Adam for his work ethic, leadership, and advice on several occasions. I value Adam’s efforts and will support him, Caitlin, and their kids in their future endeavours.”
Thielen started 101 of the 135 regular-season games he participated in for the Vikings, surpassing 100 receiving yards in 21 different contests (ranks fifth in team history), including a personal-best 202 on 12 catches at Green Bay (Dec. 24, 2016), the day after he and the team were left for hours on the runway. He continued to build on his breakthrough performance to demonstrate that it wasn’t an anomaly. During the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Thielen was selected for the Pro Bowl.
Off the field, he has always shown fans grace and sought ways to make use of his platform for the greater good.
The Thielen Foundation has given more than $2.5 million to community groups, including a $1 million promise made last autumn to be split among eight Minnesota nonprofit organisations. The organisations share the Thielen Foundation’s mission of assisting people in realising their full potential.
In addition to obtaining funds to restore Brooklyn Center’s broken lights, Thielen’s donations have included remodelling high school weight facilities and restoring the glow of Friday night lights in front of family and friends.
The Thielen family, which consists of Thielen, his wife Caitlin, and his children Asher, Hudson, and Cora, has made a conscious decision to support young people who are dealing with behavioural issues.
The Vikings’ owners, Mark Wilf and Zygi Wilf, jointly released the following statement: “Dam has had a significant influence way beyond the Vikings organisation. He inspired a lot of young athletes and is a tribute to hard effort and determination. He went from being a tryout player to being one of our franchise’s finest players. Although Adam had a competitive fire on the field, he displayed grace, compassion, and humility in his community. He and his wife Caitlin’s dedication to Minnesota via the Thielen Foundation has and will continue to bring about significant change. Within the building, Adam’s upbeat, infectious attitude will be missed, but we are appreciative of the foundation he established. He was a Minnesota Viking long before we signed him, and he will always be regarded as a member of our team. We genuinely hope for continuing success for Adam, Caitlin, and their whole family.”