Adam Thielen’s storied rise to the NFL has quickly become one of the feel-good stories this season. His rise from DII football to arguably the best wide receiver in football is grabbing the attention of fans well outside of Minnesota.
Thielen, who got his start in DII football with the Minnesota State Mavericks, has had to fight every step of his journey. Given a $500 scholarship that was hardly enough to pay for his books, Thielen exploded into Minnesota State's record books after redshirting his freshman year. He had to fight his way from the practice squad to the Vikings roster, and now that he's there, he's setting records on a weekly basis.
But that's who he's always been. The gutsy wide receiver who's been defying the odds since he stepped on a DII football field. Let’s take a look at how well Thielen performed in his four years in a Minnesota State uniform.
• Thielen redshirted his freshman year. The Mavericks went 9-3 that season. They would go 38-11 over the rest of his tenure.
• Thielen had a modest freshman campaign in 2009, appearing in just nine games and catching 21 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown. That would be his worst season as he improved every year until his 2012 breakthrough senior season.
• He totaled 103 catches for 1,401 yards over his sophomore and junior seasons. Thielen broke out his senior year, catching 74 passes for 1,176 yards. The 74 passes are tied for most in a single-season in Mavericks history while the 1,176 yards are fourth-most in a season.
• Thielen was also the starting kick and punt returner for the Mavericks. He scored his lone career kickoff return touchdown in 2011 and added a punt return touchdown to his resume in 2012. He also was the place kick holder.
• Led the Mavericks in receptions his sophomore (41), junior (62), and senior (74) seasons.
• Led the Mavericks in receiving yards his sophomore (686), junior (715) and senior year (1,176).
• The Mavericks played in one DII bowl game during Thielen’s career. Minnesota State won the 2011 Mineral Water Bowl 28-14 over Northeastern State. Thielen led all receivers with eight receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown. To put it in perspective, both quarterbacks combined to complete just 23 passes. Thielen caught 34 percent of the completions in that game.
• Thielen’s name is still all over the Mavericks' record books. His 192 career receptions are good for second-most all-time, and his 2,674 receiving yards are third. Thielen’s 19 career touchdowns are still tied for fifth-best in Minnesota State lore while his 3,375 all-purpose yards have him ranked ninth all-time.
• Here's the definition of No. 1 wide receiver: In 2012, the Mavericks had 34 completions that went for 25 yards or more. Thielen caught 21 of them.
• Thielen had just five career 100-yard games in four years in Mankato, including a career-high 167 yards on 11 receptions against Southwest Minnesota State in his big senior season. This season alone with the Minnesota Vikings, Thielen has played in six games and has recorded 100 yards in every one of them, the best start for a wide receiver in the Super Bowl era of the NFL.
Complete list of players with 100+ receiving yards in a team’s first five games:— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 7, 2018
- Adam Thielen
That’s it…that’s all. pic.twitter.com/qNjRGMvU84
• He finished with 192 receptions at Minnesota State, with 74 catches being his best output in a career-high 14 games in 2012. To put into perspective how dominant he has been this season through his first six games in 2018, Thielen has reeled in 58 receptions, more than any other receiver in the history of the NFL through their first six games.
• Thielen went out with a bang. He played his final game in a Mavericks uniform on Dec. 12, 2012, and caught six receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, it was in a losing effort to Valdosta State in the semifinals of the playoffs on the Blazers way to the 2012 title.