The Minnesota Vikings opened training camp for the 2018 season over the weekend in their new home in Eagan, Minnesota which was hard to adjust to for not just the media but the team as well. The TCO Performance Center has everything an NFL team would want, two grass practice fields, a massive weight room complex, meeting rooms, hot and cold tubs and a cryotherapy chamber.
Then there’s TCO Stadium, which is a perfect site for the Minnesota Prep Bowl honestly, it seats 6,000 but can be expanded to 10,000. It’s there where the Minnesota Vikings now call their “forever home” after moving their operations from Winter Park and Eden Prairie (the old Viking ship is still outside the fieldhouse). They also packed up and left Mankato after 52 years of calling that place their training camp home. It was striking to see the images from Mankato this weekend, looking quiet and dull, while fans had to get tickets to see the Vikings practice at their new home.
It’s in this new palace where Detroit Lakes native Adam Thielen is preparing for the new NFL season. It’s been five years since I was at Vikings training camp, 2013 and that year Thielen signed a free agent contract after surviving rookie camp that May. I was thinking about that camp when I was in Eagan that weekend. “Mr Mankato” was created that camp as Thielen made the Vikings roster and spent the year on the practice squad. The following season he made the 53 man roster out of camp and since then it’s been an explosion, rising up to be ranked 36th overall by his peers in the top 100 players entering the 2018 season.
There has been plenty written and said about Carson Wentz and his rise to being one of the best players in the NFL and rightly so (I have done plenty of it). But Thielen’s story shouldn’t be overlooked and for the most part it hasn’t been. But I was thinking about it this weekend and it’s still remarkable. Thielen had no scholarship offers after he graduated from DL and chose to walk on at MSU Mankato. Head coach Todd Hoffner said he “outworked everyone there and he’s still outworking people now.”
I asked Thielen this weekend about looking out and seeing fans wearing Thielen shirts and jerseys (he has one of the top selling jerseys on the team) and what he thought about it. “I don’t think about it right now, but it’s something after my career is done I’ll reflect on and say, did that really happen?” His modesty hasn’t changed from the time he made the roster in 2013 to when he was selected for the Pro Bowl last year. I don’t think it can be underestimated how important Thielen is to young football players in Minnesota. He is the epitome of hard work, someone that had to earn everything he has got and now the fruits are starting to show. Thielen understands that role as well, he has worked with younger players when he has returned home in the offseason, he mentioned former Laker Jake Richter, now with MSU Moorhead as a player he worked out with in the past. Richter is entering his sophomore year with the Dragons.
As a new season is about to kick off, the Vikings are a trendy pick to win the NFC and reach the Super Bowl. And it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Adam Thielen is a major reason why.