Adam Thielen loves to prove people wrong and has done it with his first big, multi-year contract after entering the NFL on a tryout basis at a rookie minicamp.
It was less than four years ago that the wide receiver from Division II Minnesota State, Mankato went undrafted and unsigned immediately after the draft when hundreds of prospects are signing rookie free-agent deals. Instead, Thielen had to hope a weekend of work at the Minnesota Vikings rookie minicamp on a tryout basis would help him stand out from dozens of other players that didn’t.
His first season was spent on the practice squad. His second and third seasons produced a combined 20 receptions and mostly special teams work. But in 2016, Thielen took full advantage of his increasing opportunities and finished the season as the team’s leading receiver by yardage with 967 yards on 69 catches
He was rewarded with a three-year, $17 million contract with a chance to balloon to $27 million. A few hours after making that contract official on Tuesday, he hadn’t seen the money in his bank account but gave no indications that it would change his approach.
“I think there’s a lot of unfinished business for me personally and as a team. I think there’s a lot of motivation. I think there’s still a lot of people that don’t believe in me and obviously I love proving people wrong and obviously just helping the football team win games any possible way I can,” he said. “Then obviously the end goal of winning a championship and bringing a championship to Minnesota. I think that’s a motivation in and of itself. I think the pieces that we’ve been able to put together in this offseason and then hopefully in the draft, I think we’re pretty excited about what could be done here in Minnesota.”
Thielen entered the offseason as a restricted free agent and was given a second-round tender before coming to terms with the Vikings on the three-year contract. During the process, other teams could have signed him to an offer sheet that the Vikings would have had a chance to match, but Thielen said he didn’t know if other teams were interested. His focus remained on his training so he can continue to gain more respect.
“I don’t think it has anything do with the contract, but I think that guys will see what I was able to do last year in the regular season and have a little bit of respect for my game and what I can do,” he said. “Obviously before last season I didn’t have a lot of opportunities so you can’t blame people for not respecting me or not knowing I could play. Until you prove it on game day, on Sundays, you don’t really have anything to back it up. I think now I have at least some film and some things that can back it up.”
His production in 2016, and his new contract for 2017, would also back it up. But his contract also gives him peace of mind that his career is stabilizing after months of not knowing for sure what the future would hold.
“I really wouldn’t say it was stressful for me. I think the toughest part is just not knowing what was going to happen, whether I was going to have to play out a one-year deal or whether something was going to get worked out,” Thielen said. “It really wasn’t too stressful for me. I was just focused on my family, obviously, and just training and making sure I’m coming in next year – no matter what deal I have, coming in the best shape and developing into the best player I can be.”