MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Vikings wide receiver — and Detroit Lakes native — Adam Thielen made his first Pro Bowl this season. The game is Sunday night in Orlando.
By now, it’s not just Minnesotans who are familiar with Thielen’s incredible story, but the entire country. How a small-town guy who wasn’t recruited out of high school, a Division 2 player with little NFL prospects, worked his way to the pinnacle of his profession.
But there’s another side of Thielen’s story he revealed just this year — how his profession was very nearly something else.
Like most recent college grads, Adam Thielen needed a job. Even most college football players, as they say, go pro in something other than sports. Especially Division 2.
With NFL odds as long as Thielen’s, he needed a backup plan.
“So I said I will let my manager know and got his resume,” Connie Kallevig said.
A family friend lined him up with a job interview where she worked, with Patterson Companies, at their corporate headquarters in Mendota Heights.
“It’s probably the Fortune 500 company you haven’t heard of, in the Twin Cities. We sell dental and animal health supplies,” Tim Sweezo said.
In other words, when your dentist gets a drill, they probably get it from Patterson.
The interview was with Tim Sweezo.
“I’m the director of IT,” Sweezo said.
Technically a paid internship for recent college graduates, it was a foot in the door into corporate America.
“I’ve done a lot of interviews over the years,” Sweezo said.
But there was one he’ll never forget.
“There was four of us in the room that were interviewing this guy, by the name of Adam Thielen, was the name,” Sweezo said.
“And he was just a great fit for what we were looking for. So, we offered him the job … And he accepted the job. And it was for a business analyst.”
But just a short time later, Thielen had to call back. The Vikings had offered him a job too.
“And I’m like, the Vikings? I’m like, that’s a much much better job than the internship that we had lined up,” Sweezo said.
Thielen had been upfront during the interview that he had a tryout with the Vikings coming up, but that did little to curtail the surprise.
“When we interview interns, we always ask them, hey, if money was no object what would you be doing? But you had to work? And he actually answered, I’d be in the NFL. I was like, OK. He explained a little bit like how that’s been his dream forever and I’m like, that sounds great. And then next thing you know, he’s calling and he’s turning down the internship because, he actually did it,” Sweezo said.
When Thielen told Sweezo he wanted to play in the NFL, Sweezo initially thought he would be back at Patterson soon.
“I mean, how many people actually make it in the NFL, right?” Sweezo said. “And to add on top of it, the undrafted, Division 2, from Minnesota State, I mean, the odds were stacked against him, but you can see that he definitely prevailed.
“It’s probably for the better. I think a lot of people are happier where he is now.”
Sweezo said he’s a Vikings fan.
“I am, actually after we interviewed him, after I found out he made the practice squad, I actually started following his career a lot closer,” he said. “Honestly, it’s just fantastic. And it’s just, I’ll say it again, it’s a great success story.
Sweezo said he does sometimes think, “This guy was nearly in the cubicle down the hall from me.”
“I do. And I would say, you know, if he ever wants to stop by and take the internship for a day or two, we’d definitely offer it,” he said.
“The coolest part, I think, is that, you can see somebody chase a big dream,” Kallevig said. “Like, a huge dream, and I love that my daughters can see that, that you can have a dream that might be a long shot, it might be huge, but you’re gonna have people around you loving you and supporting you and cheering you on.”
So for the folks at Patterson, to have a connection to one of the NFL’s best stories is something they’re awfully proud of.
“Yeah. That’s been exciting,” Kallevig said.