MINNEAPOLIS –Adam Thielen is used to having his hometown success story told, but on Wednesday evening he helped tell the story of another Minnesota athlete.
Thielen took the stage alongside Hall of Fame safety Paul Krause as presenters at the inaugural Minnesota Sports Awards, presented by Meet Minneapolis and hosted at the Target Center. Together, the two introduced Maddie Muelken, who was honored with the 2017 Courage Award.
Muelken, a captain of the Farmington High School softball team, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma just before the start of the 2017 season. Unwilling to give in to the disease, however, Muelken not only faced her treatment head-on but continued to be committed to her team. She missed only a couple of games throughout the season, sometimes pitching an entire game on the same day that she received chemotherapy.
Muelken was on the mound for Farmington in the 4A State Championship game against Anoka. She pitched 10 scoreless innings and helped lead her team to Farmington's first-ever team title.
Thielen welcomed Muelken, who grew emotional when she received a standing ovation, and presented her with the award.
"She's a fighter. She doesn't like to lose," said Muelken's father in a brief video played before the award presentation. "She wants to go ahead and challenge herself and push forward. She doesn't want to let anyone beat her."
Prior to presenting Muelken with the award, Thielen and Krause sat down for a Q&A with the program's emcees, Vikings Ring of Honor member Ahmad Rashad and Fox Sports North play-by-play announcer Anthony LaPanta.
Rashad related to former teammate Krause and asked if it was difficult to watch the Vikings play after hanging up his cleats.
"There for a while, I didn't watch a football game. But since Adam came in, I'm watching them all," Krause quipped, slapping Thielen on the knee.
"It was fun, it was fun, but I still like to watch it," Krause said. "I haven't missed a game in two years now."
The former safety told Thielen not to be discouraged about the Vikings loss at Carolina because "it will wake the team up."
He recalled the Vikings 1969 season in which they finished 12-2 and went on to play the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV.
"We lost the first game, we won 12 straight games, and we lost the last game," Krause said. "And then went to the Super Bowl. So those are wake-up calls."
Rashad called the 2017 "a great time to be a Vikings fan."
"It's a great time to be a Vikings fan always – but especially now," he told Thielen. "It has been so much fun to watch you play. A true professional, you run great routes, [have] great hands – it's really a pleasure to watch you play.
"Case Keenum is killing it," Rashad added. "He got an opportunity and went out and showed what he can do. It's just great to see this kid can really play."
When asked by the two Vikings Legends if he's taking in the significance of his journey and the player he's become, Thielen humbly brushed off the compliment.
He also emphasized the "don't get ahead of yourself" mentality that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has instilled with the team.
"I think when I look back at it, when I'm done playing, it'll be a little more special for me," Thielen said. "Honestly right now, I'm just playing football. It doesn't really feel any different, you know? The same game as I've been playing since I was a little kid.
"And I have great teammates," Thielen continued. "It's been so fun this year, such a great group of guys, such a good locker room – and then winning helps, obviously. So hopefully we can just keep it rolling and taking it one day at a time. I think we have just a really good mindset right now."
Krause and Thielen weren't the only big Minnesota names represented Wednesday. Below is a list of the awards given and their respective presenters:
High School Athlete of the Year
*Recipients: *Taylor Anderson, Eagan High School girls hockey; Sam Carlson, 2017 graduate of Burnsville High School and second-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners
*Presenters: *former Twins first baseman Justin Morneau; Twins catcher Joe Mauer
Collegiate Athlete of the Year
*Recipient: *Temi Ogunrinde, University of Minnesota track-and-field
*Presenters: *Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen; Timberwolves assistant coach Ryan Saunders
Professional Athlete of the Year
*Recipient: *Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles
*Presenters: *Minnesota United Sporting Director Manny Lagos; FOX Sports analyst Kyndra de St. Aubin;
Sports Moment of the Year
*Recipient: *Farmington High School Softball wins 4A state tournament with walk-off home run
*Presenters: *Fox Sports North analyst Wes Walz; former Wild defenseman Keith Ballard
Lifetime Achievement Award
*Recipient: *Hall of Fame Twins legend Rod Carew, an 18-time All-Star
*Presenter: *Former Twin and eight-time All-Star Tony Oliva