Adam Thielen is one of the best in the game with an impressive touchdown record, but he has realized that his mental and physical form both need to match for him not to hold back in the wrong places.
The Vikings wide receiver revealed to RSNG how he does this, and about the lucky break that landed him his dream job…
Thielen has long been an underrated pick in the Fantasy League Game, where more than 40 million fans take part. With 49 successful trips to the opposition end zone in just 84 starts for the Vikings up to the start of the 2022/23 season, that’s a pretty good return.
It would make Thielen a solid WR2 or WR3 behind any of the younger big-hitters, and a must for any fantasy team.
What slows the 31-year-old down is a frustrating injury record, predominantly centered around ankle problems. “I do feel as if my injuries are behind me,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of the same setbacks others have had, but I’m impatient and have rushed myself back when taking longer would doubtless have been a smarter solution.”
Frame Of Mind For Thielen, physical ability is only half of it. He says a positive frame of mind channels positive energy into his performances. “I believe the way you think channels and influences the way you move on a pitch.
“When you are in a frame of mind that is optimistic and extroverted, you will twist, move and stretch your body without fear – and fear has no place on a football field.
“I think for too long I was rushing back from injury and not going into places 100%. When you hold back, you actually tense at moments when you need to be fully agile and mobile… and similarly you are loose at times when you should be powerful.
“That all adds up to going into combat in the wrong physical form, and that perpetuates and brings about new injuries. For me it’s a really simple issue – mental form and physical form must meet at the same place.
“I have worked really hard with sports scientists to realize this, and now I am clear on it, I feel I am starting to see the rewards.”
Realizing Potential Minnesota fans could certainly do with a new way of getting over that line. They remain the NFL side, perhaps more than any other, who come close but never close enough, having totalled 30 playoff appearances still their last Super Bowl win, way back in 1977. No other NFL team can claim such a stat.
“I always look at our roster and I see that we have enough to be able to compete with the other teams in our division, in the NFC North, in the NFC as a whole and the NFL altogether. Yet it’s up to us to prove that and it’s been too long.
“Obviously, the play-offs are always the main goal for the team but there’s been no Super Bowl for the Minnesota fans since the 1970s. That’s a hell of a long time to go without one and we need to put that right.
“The fans have been brilliant and supported me throughout my time on the side-lines, and the best way I can repay them is doing what I do best – scoring touchdowns.”
We have a lot of worldwide support for the league itself and that is clear when there are games played in the United Kingdom
Going Over The Pond The NFL International Games have been taking place outside the United States since the first at Wembley Stadium in October 2007, when the New York Giants defeated the Miami Dolphins 13-10, and Thielen has his own experience of playing overseas with the Vikings.
Indeed, when Vikings quarterback Case Keenum connected with an 18-yard throw to an unmarked Thielen in the corner of the end zone, it gave them the lead for the first time in their 33-16 victory over the Cleveland Browns at Twickenham.
Thielen is a big supporter of the NFL playing games beyond US shores in order to further the reach of the sport. “The one big change is that you’re going to have less of your own support although we do have a good following in the UK. I’ve been lucky enough to play in the UK before, including scoring, so that was great, and I would love to be able to do so again.
“With regards to the experience as a whole, I love it and I think it’s a great addition to the NFL season calendar. It’s a different surrounding, a different vibe, and the fans are great over there. We know we have a lot of worldwide support for the league itself and that is clear when there are games played in the United Kingdom.
“I just hope that we get to stay a little longer in London the next occasion, because the last time we just landed, trained, played and then got back on the plane home. That was a little bit disappointing, but we are there for a job to do and so that’s understandable.”
The Perfect Partnership Thielen and his wide receiver team-mate Justin Jefferson have a reputation for being two of the most reliable players in their position in the entire NFL, and 41 touchdowns between them in the first two years since Jefferson’s rookie season in 2020 shows why.
Understandably, Thielen always waxes lyrical about their partnership and believes they are up there with the most impressive and productive in the league. “I don’t think there’s any secret except for the fact that we are just so passionate about what we do, and we are always looking to improve.
“We always want to be the best – we’re ball players and we have that supreme confidence. And confidence counts for so much. If you don’t believe that you’re good enough then you’re not going to reach the heights that others will.
“You can also see a lack of confidence in players. Even in a sport where players’ faces are largely hidden, the body language coming from everywhere else can, at times, tell you everything you need to know about a player’s demeanor.”
Sometimes, talent is not enough because you need the break… that lucky moment where something changes
The Back-Up Plan Thielen is one of the real success stories for those athletes who never give up hope on making it as a professional. There was, after all, a time when all those aspirations of playing in the National Football League seemed a long distance away.
The star was working as a salesman in the dental industry and his dreams of making it to the major leagues were put on the back burner, as he was trying to carve out a life in a regular job.
“I went for a job with a dental equipment sales company and like most interviewers say, they asked me where I would see myself in five years, or what my dream job was, and I was honest with them and said to be in the NFL. Both of us had a little laugh, but I think we’re both laughing in different ways now!
“I think being from Minnesota, and growing up in the area, it means it’s so special to have ended up playing for the Vikings, particularly when there were quite a few moments when I thought that wouldn’t happen.
“Sometimes, talent is not enough because you need the break… that lucky moment where something changes, and you get that chance to prove it in front of those who make decisions. That’s all it takes…”
WHAT NEXT? For more on NFL touchdown greats, read our exclusive interview with Tom Brady.