For a second, the noise was so loud you would have thought Adam Thielen had just scored a touchdown at U.S. Bank Stadium.
It was a recent off day, and the Vikings wide receiver and his wife, Caitlin, had just strolled into the gymnasium at Brooklyn Center High School for a surprise announcement.
Before they could announce it, however, the group of more than 100 teenagers unleashed a thunderous ovation that included a rousing SKOL Chant.
“I was ready to play a game,” Thielen said with a laugh. “They were all fired up, and it was pretty exciting.”
Caitlin added: “I wasn’t expecting that loud of a cheer. But it was cool to see these kids being appreciative and so excited for what we can provide for them. Hopefully we can give them a little motivation.”
The couple was on hand to announce a $10,000 donation through the Thielen Foundation to the school’s athletic program that included updated weight room equipment, new cleats and a $75 Scheels gift card for every student-athlete.
The Thielen Foundation, founded by Adam and Caitlin Thielen, donated shoes and supplies to Brooklyn Center High School students this week.
Additionally, one player from each Centaurs team who displays leadership, teamwork and dedication will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Besides the donation, the Thielens hosted a Q&A session with students, handed out boxes of new cleats, posed for pictures, signed autographs and toured the campus to see exactly where the donation is going.
Nate Gautsch, the high school’s activities director, said the idea first came about in the spring. The impact was felt by autumn.
“All of the sudden, it happened,” Gautsch said. “It wasn’t, ‘Oh, this is what we want to do.’ It was, ‘This is happening.’ Then the weight room equipment showed up, and shoes starting showing up.
“A lot of these kids can’t afford to buy their own cleats. We supply basic equipment through the school because so many of these kids can’t go get it on their own,” Gautsch added. “A lot of coaches keep used cleats and pass them on year to year.”
Jonathan Meader, a junior at Brooklyn Center, plays middle linebacker and left tackle for the football team. He described the excitement the school felt when Thielen surprised him and his peers.
“We were pretty loud when we saw him,” Meader said. “This is a big thing, because for a long time, this [athletic] program hasn’t had a lot. This can definitely help … this just gets us pumped and helps us push forward.”
The hefty donation and generous giving was yet another milestone moment for the Thielen Foundation, which celebrated its one-year anniversary on Sept. 18.
What began as a $100,000 donation to the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital (specifically the Pediatric Behavioral Health unit) has turned into a year of giving and impact for both the foundation and the family.
The foundation hosted an event at Topgolf, with a second outing to come on Sept. 23 in Brooklyn Center. There was also a July celebrity softball game at CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints, plus multiple other events throughout the year.
“It’s shaped us, honestly, more in the last year than it has shaped other people,” Thielen said of the community work he and his family have done since September of 2018. “Some of the visits we’ve had with some kids, and coming to an event like this and seeing the spirit of these kids getting the cleats and things like that … them getting that excited is pretty cool.
“We’re happy with where we’re at … but hopefully we can continue to build off this and provide more around this community,” Thielen added.
Being present at an event or in the community isn’t a requirement by any means, but it might as well be for the Thielens, as the couple said they always want to make sure they are visible and not just writing a check while sitting at home.
“One-hundred percent percent. That’s something that’s big to us and our foundation, is that we don’t want to just give something or just send money … we want to be physically there,” Thielen said. “It means so much more when you’re there and you meet the kids and you’re around them. It means more for us, and I’d think it’d mean more for them, too.”
The foundation’s impact has been spread across the Twin Cities, but it’s also been felt at home, too.
The Thielen household now features two energetic boys. Asher will turn 3 in October, and Hudson was born in January to form an active tag-team duo.
For the Thielens, setting a good example in the community starts with setting the right one at home.
“It’s impacted me a lot,” Thielen said of fatherhood. “Just accountability and trying to do better every single day to make sure that they’re learning from my mistakes and so that I can teach them and help them grow to become good human beings and people that give back.”
Caitlin added: “We try and enjoy the present. This is such a unique time in Adam’s life, and our family’s life. Just trying to soak it all in with our kids. With our foundation, it’s so important for our kids to see us giving back to the community.”
When the Vikings opened the 2019 season at home with a 28-12 win against Atlanta, it marked Thielen’s seventh season in the NFL and sixth on the active roster.
But ask Thielen about the Week 1 win, and he’ll tell you that his favorite moment wasn’t scoring the Vikings first touchdown of the season, or helping block for a punishing rushing attack.
It was a quiet few moments before the game when he was able to spend time with both of his boys for the first time while at his Sunday job.
“Just having them there is the most important thing for me,” Thielen said. “It takes a lot on her part to get them on the field, but that’s my favorite part of the game every single time — seeing her and the boys … Hudson crawling out to me before the game was pretty cool.
“That’s the stuff that means the most. Touchdowns, obviously, are great for the team and helping the team win,” Thielen added. “But it’s not about the touchdowns; it’s about the family and the locker room and things like that.”
Thielen then paused before pulling off a dad joke.
“That was Hudson’s first game, so he’s 1-0,” Thielen said with a laugh.
A few days after the game, Caitlin still got a bit choked up thinking about the pregame moment.
“It was really emotional,” she said. “Asher went to his first game at three weeks old, so that’s all he has known. It was pretty special to have the kids run out to their dad.”
As Thielen’s career has evolved, the couple said it has taken plenty of commitment on both of their parts to make it work.
Adam is appreciative of Caitlin’s constant efforts as a mom and for her backing of his career.
“There’s no way I could do it without her buying in as well and understanding I’m not going to be there 24/7. It puts a lot on her shoulders, but she does a great job, and I’m very fortunate for that,” Thielen said. “For us, it’s making sure we put the right things first and know that football is also a part of our life right now. We’re on the same page there.”
For Caitlin, she is unwavering in her support of the time commitments that football puts on their family.
“It’s been tough … but it’s also really exciting because this is going to be a short period of time [in his life], so I’m trying to soak it in,” Caitlin said. “But we know this is football season and this is his job. We try and give him as much support as we can and make him good dinners and, once in a while, say that he can go get a massage.
“Just things like that where he can take care of his body so that he’s ready to play,” she added. “But we try to keep it family-oriented when he’s at home.”
While Adam and Caitlin were together when he began his NFL career, they have since gotten married, doubled the size of their family and watched Thielen work himself into one of the best wide receivers in the NFL.
The NFL’s 100th season is off and running, and most people around the league know who Thielen is.
He is a back-to-back Pro Bowl receiver who has amassed 281 catches for 3,734 yards and 19 touchdowns in 50 games since the start of the 2016 season.
And in the spring of 2019, the Vikings rewarded Thielen with a multiyear contract extension that will keep the All-Pro wide receiver in his home state for the foreseeable future.
While Vikings fans might rejoice in that fact because it means that more acrobatic catches and ridiculously good route running are on the way, the Thielens think of the security in a different way.
Yes, Thielen will bring joy to the state through his play, but the family could make an even bigger impact with the work that lies ahead for the Thielen Foundation.
“We have a long ways to go because there’s so much need and so many kids that could use these resources and opportunities,” Thielen said. “We want to help youth reach their full potential.
“We want to make sure that when we do this, we do it right,” Thielen added. “But the longer we’re here, the more we’re able to give back.”
By: Eric Smith