You have to wonder if Vikings receiver Adam Thielen would rank with the best prep athletes in the history of the state, including such people as Joe Mauer, Dave Winfield and others, because he won letters in four sports rather than three — football, baseball, basketball and golf — while at Detroit Lakes High School.
Some people thought he could be a pro golfer or an NBA basketball player given the time to develop at the college level.
This summer Thielen took part in the American Century Championships, a golf tournament featuring pro athletes across all sports. Thielen finished tied for 18th, alongside Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Yes, this season Thielen has already set an NFL record by recording over 100 receiving yards in his first eight games of the season.
With five games to play, he already ranks seventh for receptions in team history, with 93, and he is on pace to shatter the Vikings’ single-season record of 122 receptions by Cris Carter. If Thielen keeps up this pace he’ll record 135 catches.
He is on pace for 1,655 receiving yards, which is just ahead of the Vikings record of 1,632 receiving yards by Randy Moss in 2003. If Thielen can keep up the production like he did in a win over the Packers last weekend, when he grabbed eight receptions for 125 yards, he’ll break the record easily.
Basketball his best sport?
Thielen told me recently that he thought his best sport in high school was basketball, where he graduated as the all-time leading scorer in Detroit Lakes.
“I thought I was better at basketball, but obviously people didn’t think so,” said. “But I loved them equally, whether it be baseball season, basketball, football, golf, I liked them equally. It didn’t really matter to me what I did at the next level.”
Thielen was on the state championship-winning Detroit Lakes golf team in 2008, and he said that overall he had good team success in high school.
“We were always decent at basketball, we were good at golf as a team, good at baseball as a team,” he said. “In basketball, we didn’t have any big guys, so we were OK.”
What made him decide on going to Minnesota State Mankato to play football?
“Honestly for me, there was four sports I played throughout my career and I would have played any one of them at the next level,” he said. “Whatever I had the best opportunity at the next level and the highest opportunity, whether that be Division I or Division II or wherever somebody wanted me.”
Thielen said that he didn’t care what sport he played at the next level.
“In high school I just loved to compete and play sports,” he said. “I didn’t have a sport that I was going to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to play this at the next level.’ Whatever my best opportunity was was what I was going to do.”
An unwanted prep star
The amazing thing about Thielen compared to the state’s other prep standouts is that nobody recruited him.
Unlike a player like Mauer, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 MLB draft and had a scholarship to Florida State in football, Thielen was given only a $500 scholarship at Division II Mankato.
Still, when asked what had the biggest impact on his playing career, Thielen pointed back to playing all those different sports at Detroit Lakes.
“Not just football coaches, basketball coaches, baseball, golf coaches, teachers, parents obviously, friends,” Thielen said. “It would be hard to say one person helped get me here, but my high school football coaches were unbelievable, my head coach was an unbelievable guy and held me accountable, which all the coaches did. I think that really gave me the ability to play at the next level.”
Bringing in 2019 competition
While the Gophers await word on what bowl game they will be awarded for their 6-6 season, the coaching staff is on the road recruiting this week.
Head coach P.J. Fleck said that the only way the Gophers can sustain momentum from this season is to increase competition at every level.
That starts with the Class of 2019, some of whom will enroll this month.
“We have to continue to stockpile recruits,” Fleck said. “We have to continue to stockpile depth. This ’18 and ’19 class, as I said from Day 1, is so important for us to continue to be able to evolve and bring this program where it needs to be. To uplift the competition inside the program. People say, ‘OK, I have my job and I’ll keep my job and keep playing the same.’ Nope.
“This is going to be a huge competition every year of being able to elevate our program’s talent, and our players know that. For you to play you have to get better, you have to continue to do the right things, you have to continue to row the boat, you have to continue to do well in the classroom, you have to continue to do better every day.”
The 2019 class currently ranks 38th in the country and ninth in the Big Ten. But Fleck’s 22 commitments are the third most in the Big Ten.
• Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who will coach his 300th NFL game Sunday, said there is “just not a lot of margin for error with the way the Vikings play defense.”
• Belichick and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer share a partial coaching tree with Bill Parcells. Belichick was with him for 12 seasons while Zimmer was with him for four.
• “He’s very comfortable in the pocket,” Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said about his QB opponent, Tom Brady of the Patriots. “He does a great job of feeling the rush and not seeing the rush. In that way he’s very mobile, and he has always been great in crunch time.”
• Pro Football Focus writes that since Dalvin Cook returned to action in Week 9 he has forced seven missed tackles as a receiver. That is the most for running backs since Week 9.
• It’s hard to believe PFF also has the Vikings offensive line ranked No. 30 in the league even though it has improved a great deal lately.
• After facing the Patriots and the Seahawks, the Vikings’ remaining opponents have a combined record of 17-16.
• Former Vikings quarterback Case Keenum has been on a tear for the Broncos after a rough start. Denver has won two in a row vs. playoff teams in the Chargers and Steelers.
• CBS predicts the Gophers will play in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium vs. Virginia on Dec. 27.
• An MLB.com headline this week read, “Say hello to your 2019 AL Central champs, the Minnesota Twins.”
• Former DeLaSalle and Stanford standout Reid Travis is averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for Kentucky.
• Shakopee grad Steffon Mitchell had eight points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Boston College in its win over the Gophers.
• There are no former Gophers basketball players in the NBA.