Minnesota native Adam Thielen is living a dream, fully embodying this plucky Vikings squad aiming to wrap up the season in fairy-tale fashion
By Jeffri Chadiha | Published Jan. 10, 2018
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Adam Thielen barely had settled into his seat at the Target Center in Minneapolis when the fans surged toward him. He and his wife, Caitlin, were hoping to enjoy a New Year's Day date -- an NBA game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers -- before the NFL postseason ensued. What they discovered was that Thielen, the Minnesota Vikings' Pro Bowl wide receiver, was just as big an attraction as anything on the court that night. At least 20 different people sidled up to him, tapping him on his shoulder, sheepishly asking for a photo and giddily strolling away after nabbing their keepsake.
About the only request Thielen didn't honor that night came from a Target Center staffer who wanted to show Thielen's image on the arena's video board. For an affable man who struggles to say no, even that felt a little too over the top for Thielen in the moment. It also was an indication that even someone living his dream has to learn the importance of setting boundaries sometimes. Caitlin already has reached the point where she can sense the adulation surrounding her husband before he does, like when several customers stared and whispered as she and Adam enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant a few weeks ago.
"It's definitely been different," Caitlin said. "Last year, we could go out and do anything. Adam is a pretty normal-looking guy, so he kind of fits in easily. But now, if we want to just go out and have a little dinner date, it's harder. You realize things are a lot crazier."
Thielen would be the first person to acknowledge that this is a good problem to have. That's not to say he's the type to crave notoriety or downplay the increasing loss of his privacy. It's simply that Thielen has devoted himself to a dream that he's gleefully living every day, one that involves him being a standout for the NFL team he grew up worshiping. With the success he's enjoying -- particularly as a Minnesota native who vividly remembers the heartbreaking playoff losses of the 1998 and 2009 Vikings -- there are going to be plenty of nights when the locals will want to show their love for him.
In many ways, Thielen embodies everything the Vikings have become in a campaign where they finished the regular season at 13-3, won the NFC North and earned a first-round bye before this week's divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. He's scrappy, undaunted and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.
"I know the fans are extremely excited right now, just for where we're at and what could be on the horizon," Thielen said. "Being from here, seeing those other teams that had a lot of success and didn't quite get to where they wanted to be, I feel the fans' passion [and] how bad they want it. It kind of adds a little chip to your shoulder, where you're thinking [you're] playing for these guys that have endured these long seasons and tough losses."
"Adam is like a lot of guys we have," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. "He's a great competitor and he's got a great heart. I was joking with somebody the other day about him because sometimes during games, when he comes over and talks to me, he reminds me of (former Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame wide receiver) Michael Irvin. He's never covered. He truly thinks he can get the ball and beat anybody."