Check out pictures from Vikings WR Adam Thielen's offseason workout with TE Brian Leonhardt and longtime trainer Ryan Englebert at his ETS Thielen Gym.
LAKEVILLE, Minn. —Adam Thielen pushed. He pulled.
He did it again, and again, and again.
The Vikings receiver — and player that some view as a perennial underdog for a roster spot — mushed ahead.
He dragged a sled with nine weight plates — 45 pounds each — stacked on it back and forth across freshly installed green synthetic turf. Later, he pushed the sled with three plates on it, hurriedly along a similar course.
Thielen also did jumps while holding dumbbells, hoisted medicine balls and a considerable number of core exercises as he and Vikings tight end Brian Leonhardt went through a recent "Fourth Quarter Fridays" workout led by Thielen's longtime trainer Ryan Englebert.
Not long after wrapping up his workout, Thielen grabbed a seat behind the front desk and propped his feet up.
He looked at home, and with good reason, because he and Englebert recently became co-owners of this ETS Thielen gym, which is founded on ETS Elite Sports Performance principles.
It is a deepening of the partnership that's helped the Minnesota native increase his role each season since earning a spot on the Vikings practice squad via a tryout in 2013.
"It's awesome to have a place where you can go and use whenever you want," Thielen said. "It's nice in the offseason when I can come here a couple times a day and just make sure I'm taking care of my body and making sure I'm preparing myself for the season."
Before returning to his alma mater, Minnesota State University, Mankato, for training camp, Thielen was led through workouts by Englebert on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. He appreciated the Lakeville location that's about half the distance from his home in Savage than the separately owned ETS Woodbury location where he previously trained.
The gym is a collaboration between Thielen, Englebert and their wives. Thielen said his wife, who is pregnant with their first child, will handle a lot of the "bookkeeping and day-to-day stuff" and might start teaching fitness classes.
"I think she's pretty excited – she loves to work out, she loves to help youth, and I think that's kind of where all four of us, collectively, have a passion for youth and the development of youth," Thielen said.
Englebert and his wife have handled the marketing and operations, allowing Thielen to keep his focus on football, which is how the relationship began. Thielen saw results from the workouts that often focus on explosive movements. A growing trust between the two men accompanied the athletic gains.
"It's been a blessing – not just to see him grow as a football player but to see as a person, you know, our friendship develop the way it has," Englebert said. "Which is why we're doing this. It's not just because of the business side, but it's also because of the mutual respect that we have for one another.
"I know he trusts in me 110 percent, and I trust in him 110 percent," Englebert continued. "It's something we want to do together because we have the same vision. We want to impact the lives of the youth – high school, college and beyond. We want to do that together and build a brand. Obviously, Adam's focus is on playing – he's going to be in the league for a number of years. But to have this started now I think is a great thing."
The backs of the workout shirts say:
It's an approach that's paid dividends for Thielen, who was chosen as the Vikings Special Teams Player of the Year in 2015.
"He wouldn't have gotten where he is without that mindset," Englebert said. "Everything about that mindset is what we preached from day one. We take the hardest-working kids, the blue-collar kids over the most athletically talented kid in the world that isn't willing to work.
"That's how [Adam] got here, and that's what this gym is about – making sure that we're maximizing every kid's potential if they want to be here, if they want to commit," Englebert added. "The results will speak for themselves, and it's going to be a very exciting ride. Having Adam part of it is a huge blessing."
The addition of teammates that include fellow Minnesota natives Leonhardt (Spring Lake Park) and receiver Isaac Fruechte (Caledonia) has been welcome for multiple reasons.
View images from the Monday, August 1 practice at Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
"It's great to have their support and have their opinions on the facility and not only that, but just to get a good workout in together," Thielen said. "We kind of push each other – we're all pretty competitive, so we want to make sure we're beating one another in the different things we do. It's just great to have their support. I think we're benefitting because of it."
Leonhardt first entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Oakland. He also spent time last season with Cleveland and San Francisco before joining the team that he grew up supporting.
Leonhardt's Bemidji State Beavers and Thielen's Minnesota State Mavericks played each other when they were freshmen and again as seniors. They began training with each other a year ago, and then were glad to become teammates when Leonhardt signed in March. Leonhardt is a grinder like Thielen. In addition to the nine plates on the sled, the tight end tugged it along with trainer Trevor Morning sitting on top of the stack.
"We have developed a good relationship; it's nice that I've ended up here," Leonhardt said. "I've been able to know a couple of the guys from the team that have trained there, and then now being able to train with him in the offseason, run routes with him, he's kind of taken me under his wing a little bit and helped me out with the offense. It's definitely been nice to have somebody to train with like that."
Within the first week of being open, an area high school hockey team signed up to train the way that Thielen has with Englebert for four years. The team arrived as Thielen and Leonhardt were finishing their workouts.
"It's fun to see these guys in here just busting their butt and getting after it," Thielen said. "Every day, they come in, and it seems like they're pretty excited to get to work. The trainers that we've got here – we've been working with those guys, and they've been doing an awesome job. I think they're liking what they're doing, so hopefully they can stick around and really buy into the system. I think it'll benefit them as a team and then them individually, moving forward."