Adam Thielen likes taking his wife to Hotel Shoreham Bar, Bistro & Pizzeria in his hometown of Detroit Lakes, Minn. "That's our date-night place," he said.

He loved eating at Weggy's On Campus at Minnesota State Mankato. "My wife and I are breakfast people," he said.

These days, Thielen's favorite brunch spot is between sidelines. Against long odds, he spends Sundays feasting on NFL defenses.

Thielen first attracted attention as a nice small-school story. Then he starred at MSU, then attracted the Vikings' attention at an open workout, then signed, then made the active roster.

Then he became a role player, then a starter, then a standout, and then on Monday night he caught nine passes for 157 yards, treating the New Orleans Saints as if they were the Winona State JV.

Thielen is no longer just a nice little story, or just a nice little player. He is now a reason for Vikings optimism. He and Stefon Diggs give the offense two smart, versatile, athletic receivers who run crisp routes, create separation on deep routes and catch passes in traffic. And the Vikings acquired them with one fifth-round draft pick and one tiny signing bonus.

Thielen was a kid when Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Jake Reed earned the nickname "Three Deep." Thielen and Diggs may prove to be two hard to handle.

"Those were the guys who made me want to play this position and play it at a high level," Thielen said.

His favorite? "Oh, man, brutal question," he said. "C.C., I used to emulate him, making catches diving into a beanbag chair in my living room. So I guess I'd have to go with Cris Carter."

Does he still have a beanbag chair in his living room? "No," he said. "But I need to get one for my little guy."

That's Asher John Thielen, who is 11 months old.

If Asher decides to play sports, his father will encourage him to play many. So many of the best athletes from Minnesota refused to specialize. Matt Birk, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield and Joe Mauer played multiple sports. Thielen played football, basketball, baseball and golf.

"I talk about this pretty much every time I talk to a group," Thielen said. "I would not be in the NFL, 100 percent, if it wasn't for basketball. I probably wouldn't be where I am without golf and baseball. Golf, for the mental side of the game, being able to focus on the now and take one shot at a time."

Like Mauer and Zach Parise, Thielen finds himself searching for disguises if he wants to be left alone in public. But at this stage, he doesn't always want to be left alone.

"I do get recognized every once in a while," he said. "Definitely now more than ever."

In the last five games of the 2016 season, he caught seven passes for 86 yards, four for 101, zero for 0, 12 for 202, and one for 7. If the Vikings had gotten him 33 yards in the finale, a blowout of the Bears, he would have become the Vikings' first 1,000-yard receiver since Sidney Rice in 2009. The Vikings are the only team to not produce a 1,000-yard receiver this decade.

They should produce two this year, which should make Thielen's date nights trickier.

"People don't usually gather around his table and ask for autographs," said Scott Schulte, owner of Hotel Shoreham. "A lot of people don't even know who is he, but I expect that will come soon with the way he's been playing.

"He was in for dinner two years ago, and I knew who he was. He and his wife sat at a table and had a peaceful dinner without any distractions. The next guy who sat in his chair was wearing a Vikings T-shirt. I went up to the guy and told him, 'Adam Thielen was just sitting in this seat before you.' The guy was very excited to hear that.''

Jim Souhan's podcast can be heard at On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. •