Adam Thielen knew he was likely going to be waived by the Minnesota Vikings last Saturday. He also knew he was probably going to be signed to the practice squad Sunday.
But until you sign the paperwork, you never know what’s going to happen.
“I kind of saw (my release) coming, but I wasn’t sure,” Thielen said earlier this week, finally settled in with his new job and new address. “(Vikings coaches) called me Saturday and told me to come in and bring my playbook. That’s when I knew for sure. But I knew I still had a chance for the practice squad, and they told me they’d sign me if I cleared waivers.
“It was nice to make it official (on Sunday) and have something in writing and be there for practice on Monday.”
Thielen has survived. His was a long, unlikely path to the NFL, one that easily could have been derailed several times. Despite a standout career at Minnesota State, he wasn’t invited to the NFL’s draft combine, instead working his way through less-publicized workouts. He didn’t get drafted but was invited to the Vikings rookie tryout and emerged from the pack to earn an invitation to training camp.
He was one of 12 receivers at the start of the summer, that purple 19 not really standing out that much in limited opportunities. As an undrafted free agent, he had to work his way up the list, not with flashy plays but with consistent effort and improvement in daily drills, which look mundane to most observers.
He watched former Mavericks teammate LaMark Brown get released in the first wave of cuts two weeks ago, yet he persevered. He’s now a professional football player, making about $6,000 per week, with the chance to make much more should he be added to the 53-man roster.
“My mindset is to work hard every day so I can get better and help the team get better,” Thielen said.
For now, he goes to practice and meetings each day, doing the same things as the starting receivers, but come game day, he’ll be in street clothes, either in Minnesota for road games or at Metrodome for the home games. He said the entire team will be traveling to London for the Week 3 game against Pittsburgh.
“Really, not much has changed,” he said. “It will be different not traveling to the road games, but right now, it’s just practice every day, like before.”
There are no guarantees for Thielen. The Vikings signed two receivers to the practice squad so he’s not automatically the next one in should there be an injury to one of the top five. Plus, there are a bunch of free-agent receivers that are currently unemployed that could be signed at any time.
But this was a significant accomplishment for a Division II player who really wasn’t on the NFL radar a year ago.
“I still have a long way to go,” Thielen said. “My ultimate goal is to get on the 53-man roster. But this was a big step for me. I’m happy, and I’m in a good spot.”
Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.