MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The statistics are simply ridiculous.
More than 1,000 yards receiving.
More than 19 yards a catch.
Thirteen touchdowns in just 12 games.
This after scoring 15 last year. As a sophomore. And playing in a run-heavy offense.
Mankato receiver Shane Zylstra is absolutely tearing up Division II — just like a certain someone used to do.
“I’ve been able to watch a few games online, and he’s been doing a great job,” said Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen.
And if Shane Zylstra is soon playing in the NFL, too, it shouldn’t come as a shock, because the fact is, it’s no longer such a big leap to go from Mankato to the big league. Not when he’s got not one but two examples right in there.
“It just shows if you don’t give up and you chase your dreams, that it’s absolutely possible,” Shane said.
Of course there’s Thielen, who before he was world famous manned the same position at the same college. But there’s also his own older brother, Brandon, who played at Division III Concordia-Moorhead before two impressive seasons in the Canadian Football League, which caught the eye of the Vikings.
Both say there’s no reason Shane can’t follow in their footsteps.
“I’m proud of him. We talk just about every day. Whether it’s about football or not. But he’s just somebody that really wants to succeed at what he’s doing. And he works extremely hard and dedicates so much of his time to it that it’s fun to see it pay off,” Brandon said.
Likewise, Shane says having their example set out ahead of him gives him the confidence and the roadmap, to believe in himself.
“To see the Adam Thielens, and my brother Brandon Zylstra, to see them make that next step, it’s going to help me out in the long run, and something I know that’s attainable,” Shane said. “I just got to keep working, and put my head down and keep working.
“I would say the biggest thing is to take it one day at a time and not really worry about the big things right now,” Thielen said.
“You do your thing here, there’s going to be opportunity in the future,” Brandon said.
In the meantime, there’s a cornerback or two here in Division II for whom that day can’t come fast enough.
The Mavericks play Tarleton State Saturday, which is also undefeated and ranked sixth in the country. Kickoff is at noon in Mankato.