By Chad Courrier
---- — MANKATO — For the last five years, Adam Thielen's summer has ended with a trip to Mankato, checking into one of the Minnesota State dorms to get ready for the football season.
But there was something different about Thursday, when he reported to Sears Hall as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. There were people lined up to get his autograph, now that he's a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
"It was pretty cool," Thielen said, shortly after checking into his dorm room and before he took care of finding a bike and weighing in and getting the schedule. "One guy had a college picture of me to sign. But it's just another camp; it's still football."
Thielen was one of the top receivers in Minnnesota State history, accumulating 192 receptions for 2,674 yards and 19 touchdowns in four seasons. Because of that, he's getting a chance to play professionally, opening camp today on the same practice fields that he's worked on the last four years.
"It feels the same, checking in for camp, just like college," Thielen said. "Once I get on the field, it shouldn't be much different. I should feel comfortable."
Thielen has survived a rookie tryout camp and had participated in all of the team's offseason activities, giving him a chance to get to know his teammates and coaches and become accustomed to the way a professional team operates.
"I expect to do my best," he said. "I feel like I belong, and it's now up to me to show the coaches that I belong."
Thielen, who is from Detroit Lakes, is one of 12 receivers on the roster, which also includes for MSU teammate LaMark Brown. Thielen, who expects to have 10 or so family members and friends watching him this weekend, opened some eyes in minicamp with his quickness and sure hands.
Starting next week, he'll have to continue to show those skills in pads with live defense, continuing toward his goal of playing professional football with his home-state team. It's not that much different from when he showed up on camps as a freshman, trying to work his way onto the college team.
"I just have to make a play, and I'm sure I'll feel more comfortable," Thielen said. "It's just like a college game. Make one play, and then you settle in. This is an opportunity I've wanted, and I'm excited. I know I'm ready."
Thielen got to Mankato on Wednesday and got to the dorm about the same time as the rookie bus showed up. While some of the younger players are trying to find the cafeteria or the locker room, Thielen doesn't need help. Over the next three weeks, other players might be asking about other aspects of the city or college, and he can answer those questions.
On the field, he'll be asking the questions, trying to get better with each practice and make plays with the limited chances that a young receiver gets during training camp.
"I just want to lay everything on the field every day," he said. "I don't want to have any regrets."