MAHNOMEN/WAUBUN, Minn. — The good news traveled fast.
About 45 minutes north of Adam Thielen’s hometown of Detroit Lakes, a crowd of nearly 200 let out a collective roar when they learned that the regional hero on Friday had agreed to terms on a multiyear contract extension with the Vikings.
The business reception at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen was part of the fourth Town Takeover, an annual recognition by the Vikings and Innovative Office Solutions for a community’s support of high school football (the recap of that event will be posted this week).
The joy — and jerseys spotted throughout the weekend — show that there’s plenty of concurrent support for the Class A State Champion Mahnomen-Waubun Thunderbirds and the Vikings in the communities whose combined population is in the 1,600s, particularly for Purple No. 19.
Once bitter rivals, Mahnomen-Waubun came together to co-op their football team for the first time last fall. The proud programs united, went 13-0 and won a state title with a thrilling 22-21 win over BOLD at U.S. Bank Stadium in November.
After the business reception — and just west of Waubun’s snow-covered high school field — a booster event packed Bear Sports Bar and featured a replay of the title game, appearances by Stephen Weatherly, Rashod Hill, Pete Bercich and Vikings cheerleaders and dozens more Thielen jerseys.
Mahnomen-Waubun Head Coach John Clark said Thielen’s story is “right out of the movies. You don’t believe it.”
But seeing is believing, and everyone knows Thielen’s progression from a modest scholarship offer at Minnesota State, Mankato, to being asked to stay with the Vikings following a tryout as a rookie in 2013 to grinding through a special teams role to becoming a starter, Pro Bowler, All-Pro and household name beyond the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
“Every kid around here is crazy for him,” Clark said. “A lot of our people get the Detroit Lakes newspaper, so it’s kind of small-town kid, Detroit Lakes. It proves if you work hard enough, you’ve got a shot. I’ve got a son (Carter) that’s 13 years old, [and he screams] ‘Throw it to Thielen! Throw it to Thielen!’ ”
Sean Bjerk, the play-by-play announcer for the Mahnomen-Waubun Thunderbirds, said Thielen’s story resonates with younger players.
“It’s something that the kids in the smaller communities can really look up to, ‘All right, just 30 miles down the road is where he grew up,’ ” Bjerk. “That’s big.”
The jersey sightings continued Saturday during a youth football clinic and festival.
Nick Syverson, who drove his son nearly 100 miles from Alvarado to participate in the clinic, wore the Purple No. 19 that he got last October when attending his first Vikings game.
Syverson’s fandom of Thielen has been supported by anecdotes and by seeing what a high level of competitiveness “is what set him apart and allowed him to get to the Vikings.”
“It’s nice to have the local kid who busted his butt, went to school at Mankato and see the success that he’s had, going from unrecruited to free agent to practice squad, special teams and wide receiver backup to star receiver, it’s amazing to see that a local kid can do that,” Syverson said. “It kind of shows you that anyone can accomplish their goals.”
View images of the Vikings as they returned to the team's facility the TCO Performance Center for the offseason workout program.