It was 21 years this month that LeRoy Butler of the Packers invented what has come to be known as the “Lambeau Leap” – a time-honored tradition of jumping into the arms of waiting fans in a post-touchdown celebration at Lambeau Field.
Since then, hundreds of players from dozens teams have emulated the celebration. Last Sunday, when Adam Thielen, who was honored by being named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after blocking a Carolina punt and returning it for a touchdown, added TCF Bank Stadium to the practice of jumping into the stands.
It took eight games, but Thielen was the first to inaugurate the Bank Vault.
After scoring his touchdown, Thielen was celebrating and, on a whim, decided to add himself to the growing list of players who have launched themselves into the stands.
“I had no idea that I was going to do it,” Thielen said. “It was kind of just spur of the moment, and I saw a little kid up there, so I jumped up there. I don’t know why, but I ended up doing it.”
Fortunately for Thielen, he had the leaping ability to make the Bank Vault a success. Many others have done it in other stadiums – Randy Moss was notorious for doing it at the Metrodome – but the one significant difference in Thielen’s inaugural jump was that the landing spot was a long way up and the potential for a miss could be painful.
Most stadiums have padded walls at the back of the end zone that can cushion the landing. At The Bank, it’s an 8-foot high brick wall. Most people know the dangers of running headlong into a brick wall. That wasn’t lost on Thielen.
“That definitely went through my head, so I gave it a little extra jump,” Thielen said. “But it wasn’t too bad.”
Not only was his Bank Vault a signature moment in his career, but he was rewarded with the Special Teams POW award. While it was an individual honor, Thielen was quick to point out that it was the entire punt-block team that made the play happen.
“It was cool,” Thielen said. “It’s an honor. It’s one thing that, the special teams unit as a whole, we kind of take that as a team and as a unit, so it’s cool for everybody that’s involved in those phases.”
Being a special teamer wasn’t something Thielen had any tangible experience with during his college football career. He was made aware early on in his tenure with the Vikings that his best chance to make the team would be to offer something to special teams.
It’s been a learning process, but it has been an aspect of the game that Thielen has enjoyed because not only does he view it as a way to give himself more job security, but it’s something he has become quite good at.
“It’s actually a really fun thing for me because I’ve never done it,” Thielen said. “It’s kind of a challenge and something that I’ve really focused on to get better at. Because that’s my role right now and I’m trying to take full advantage of the plays that I have and (special teams coordinator Mike) Priefer does a heck of a job of putting me in the right positions to be successful.”
Thielen is the one who got the accolades and rightly so. He made an incredible play, not only shooting the gap but timing his jump to block the Brad Nortman punt and, as the ball came down next to him on the ground, having the wherewithal to scoop it up, get up before he was touched and take the ball 30 yards into the end zone.
He was quick to point out that without the push made by his teammates that got blockers out of position and allowed him to shoot the gap to get to the punter, he likely would have been hooked up at the line of scrimmage. His name is on the award, but in his mind it should have 10 others on it, too.
“It’s the whole unit together taking this one,” Thielen said “We’ve been working our butts off and trying to make a difference in games. Special teams is a huge part of a football game that goes unnoticed. But it’s nice that our guys are finally showing what they can do and showing that we can make a difference in the game.”
And perhaps start a tradition, whether short-term or not, of making the Bank Vault a Vikings celebration statement.
Thielen wins award, initiates the Bank Vault
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