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Viking offers words of wisdom

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen, standing center in front, is flanked by ETS Elite Next Level owner Ryan Englebert (red shirt) and former Wildcat and current ETS trainer Oscar White along with about 185 River Falls High School student-athletes after Thielen spoke to the group Thursday, April 12, in the high school gym. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

Playing in the National Football League is a dream come true for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen. But he'll always cherish his time in high school.

That's the message Thielen opened with when he spoke to about 185 River Falls High School student-athletes in the school's gym Thursday, April 12.

"I love talking to this age group of kids because I miss those days," Thielen said. "Those are the times and those are the memories that you remember the most from your athletic career, on and off the field, with your friends and your teammates."

Thielen was in River Falls with ETS Elite Next Level owner Ryan Englebert and ETS trainer and former Wildcat Oscar White. ETS delivers specialized training to athletes of all ages and recently signed a contract to work with student-athletes in River Falls. While ETS trains a handful of high-profile athletes such as Thielen, much of its resources are spent working with youth athletes starting at age 8 through high school.

"That's why I'm so passionate about it," Thielen said about working with Englebert. "That's why I partnered with Ryan at ETS, because I know how huge it can be for kids. Not only to become better athletes but to become better people. We see it all the time in the gym. That kid is feeling better socially and they're doing better in school because of what they're doing in the gym."

Thielen described his time as a four-sport athlete in Detroit Lakes, Minn., playing football, basketball, baseball and golf.

"I never really knew what my best sport was, and I never knew what my favorite sport was," he said. "Whatever season it was, I just tried to be my best."

Thielen said he knew he wanted to take his talents to the next level after high school, but wasn't sure which sports to pursue until receiving some advice from his basketball coach.

"He told me I'd be better off pursuing football," he said. " But I didn't have any offers until the Minnesota State all-star game in July. The Mankato coach saw me and said come here. Two weeks later I was at camp."

After earning all-conference honors three straight years Thielen went undrafted in the 2013 NFL draft but was invited to attend a rookie tryout camp with the Vikings. The rest, as he says, is history. He was selected to his first career Pro Bowl after the 2017-18 season after catching 91 passes for 1,276 yards.

Thielen said being a four-sport athlete in high school helped him get to where he is today.

"There's no way I'd be where I am today without playing multiple sports," he told the students. "There's little things in my football game now that I take from other sports. Body control from basketball, hand-eye coordination from baseball. Even golf there are things I learned that help me today."

He said a lot of people told him he could never do it, which just made him try even harder. That's why he loves talking to young people today.

"There were several times people said I wasn't good enough to do this or I wasn't good enough to do that," he said. "That just motivated me. I still think about those coaches and those people that told me those things. So it definitely is a special thing for me to talk to youth. And what a great time to help mentor kids. This is the perfect age. They're going through some things and contemplating different things, so it's a great time for me to talk and hang out."

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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