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Good Guy Adam Thielen Worthy Hero

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October 19, 2018


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Scan the crowd during Vikings games at U.S. Bank Stadium and notice all the fans wearing Adam Thielen jerseys. His familiar No. 19 is not only a top seller in Minnesota but also across the country.

The 28-year-old Vikings’ wide receiver deserves the adulation. There are so many bad characters in professional sports, but they are adored by fans because of what they do on the field or court. Often the public is unaware or doesn’t care about their lowlife behaviors. Thielen, though, checks all the right boxes on the football field and off. Spend time around the Detroit Lakes, Minnesota native and you realize he is a poster boy for Midwest values such as courtesy, friendliness, compassion, thoughtfulness and modesty.

To be honest, Thielen isn’t all that interesting to interview in the locker room. He takes a humble demeanor in answering questions, avoids controversy and is looking out for the team while talking to the media—and there’s nothing wrong with that approach.

Thielen could have developed a head full of self-importance the last couple of years, but his character won’t allow it. His pro football career has evolved from a guy who hardly interested anyone to a player who perhaps deserves a place among the top 30 players in the NFL.

In Minnesota’s home win over the Cardinals last Sunday Thielen became the first receiver to start a season with six consecutive 100-yard games in the Super Bowl era. Through less than half of the season he has 58 receptions for 712 yards and four touchdowns. His receptions and yardage totals are tops in the league. The Vikings’ single season team records in those categories are 122 catches, 1,632 yards and 17 touchdowns.

As an undrafted free agent out of Minnesota State in 2013, Thielen did enough to earn a place on the practice squad. In 2014 he made the 53-man roster and became a contributor on special teams. That was his niche in 2015 when he was named the club’s Special Teams Player of the Year. His transition season as a receiver came in 2016 when he started 10 games, and then last year he had 1,276 receiving yards on his way to being named second team All-Pro.

Thielen has used his physical skills including running speed and eye-hand coordination to become an elite receiver. His work ethic and the repetition that has gone into perfecting his craft have played a huge role, too. There is a blue collar element to his makeup that no doubt was impacted at an early age when his dad’s favorite Viking was “Benchwarmer” Bob Lurtsema.

Maybe that mentality has contributed to Thielen seemingly being content with the four-year $19,246,000 contract that reported he signed in 2017. That deal now looks like a bargain but search hard to find any complaints from Thielen.

What’s Thielen done off the field? He has used his name and influence to give back to others. He has hosted football camps, opened a gym, worked with the Humane Society, been involved with Vikings community sponsored activities, and last month with wife Caitlin announced the Thielen Foundation. The foundation’s first gift is to the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital with a $100,000 pledge.

Worth Noting

Thielen has been able to play this season without experiencing serious injury. After the 2016 season he had shoulder surgery. “I’ve had a lot of (career) injuries but you just try to play your best when you have them,” he told Sports Headliners.

Does Thielen think about the possibility of injuries? “You’re going to think about that stuff, but once you get on the field you’re not thinking about getting hurt. You’re just trying to do the things off the field to try to prevent it—in the offseason, that is.”

Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr has a foundation called Raise the Barr that provides financial help for college to single moms in California and Minnesota. Barr is from Los Angeles and is a Lakers fan. He wears a vintage Minneapolis Lakers jacket to show his support of two places he has lived. “Cross up the love, so that’s all that is,” Barr said.

Jerry Reichow, who played for the Vikings in their 1961 inaugural season and has over four decades of experience working for the club with personnel decisions, is still with the franchise as a consultant and is living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A former wide receiver, Reichow’s expertise includes evaluating quarterbacks.

JD Spielman

JD Spielman, the redshirt sophomore receiver from Eden Prairie who the Gophers face tomorrow in Lincoln, led the Big Ten in conference games in receiving yards per game at 88.1 last year. The former Minnesota Mr. Football is five receptions from 100 career receptions and would be the first Nebraska player to achieve that total before his junior season.

Over 180 high schools, plus the Vikings and most college football programs in the state, are hosting “Tackle Cancer” games this year. The initiative has raised more than $1.3 million since its inception in 2012, and supports cancer research and patient aid in Minnesota.

Former Gophers basketball captain and assistant coach Al Nuness had a first-time experience last week on a friend’s shrimp boat near New Orleans. He worked as part of the crew and helped haul in 600 pounds of shrimp and 200 pounds of blue crab.

Lindsay Whalen said among her adjustments as a first-year head coach is being in a gym “12 to 14 hours” watching potential recruits. She acknowledged how the Gophers perform on the basketball court this season will impact the perspectives of recruits.

At the home opener tonight against the Cavs, the Timberwolves and Levy Restaurants will debut new food offerings at Target Center including a “Kid’s Meal” available for $5 in the “Kid’s Zone” (Section 225). The meal emphasizes healthy options and includes a Timberwolves-themed toy.

That was former Gophers men’s hockey coach Don Lucia jogging on campus this week. Lucia said he runs four miles or more a few times per week.

Clark Griffith, son of former Twins owner Calvin Griffith, turned 77 on Wednesday. He is an astute historian and observer of baseball, and a longtime Minneapolis resident.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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