So many things could have derailed a professional football career for Adam Thielen, starting with growing up in Detroit Lakes and attending Minnesota State, neither of which has significant history of producing NFL-caliber talent.
There were the pro days and tryouts, any of which could have ended the dream had the former Mavericks receiver had an off day.
But passing each step, he has hung around for a year with the Minnesota Vikings, and it appears that he has a real chance to make the final roster this time.
Last summer, Thielen returned to Minnesota State for training camp as an undrafted free agent, the biggest of longshots hoping to show enough that the coaches would include him on the final 53-man roster. At seemingly every practice, Thielen did something, maybe a clutch reception or key block, that would catch the spectators' eyes, and that eventually landed him a spot on the Vikings' practice squad.
While not Thielen's ultimate goal, it kept him with the NFL team for the entire season, practicing every day and watching games from the sidelines in street clothes. He used that time to study other players and hone his body and technique.
Next week, Thielen returns to Minnesota State for another training camp, filled with excitement and confidence. He survived a coaching change with the Vikings and has worked his way up the depth chart, taking reps with the second unit at a recent minicamp.
There were reports during the offseason that Thielen would stand out during workouts with his precise routes and sticky hands, neither of which is surprising. Those are his most obvious traits.
He will be more comfortable in the surroundings this time, even though he was home here for four years. He's bigger, stronger and faster, which adds to his chances of landing a roster spot.