(KMSP) - If you weren't a fan of Adam Thielen's before this season, you probably are now.
The Minnesota native is widely considered one of the top wide receivers in the NFL, but his rise to success didn’t take a predictable path.
Long before Thielen grabbed the attention of the NFL, he had already snagged the hearts of Minnesotans.
Local author and publisher Ryan Jacobson said he’s been wanting to write Thielen’s biography since 2013 when the Minnesota native walked onto the team.
“When a fellow Minnesotan does something as amazing as what Adam accomplished just to get on the team, that's really cool. It's a great story," he said.
All the Cinderella story needed was a dramatic payoff.
“In November of 2014 it happened. That's a game where he blocked a punt, scooped up the ball and ran it in for a touchdown, and I'm like ‘that's it! We have the last chapter for our book, he scored a touchdown his dream has come true. That's it," Ryan said.
So Ryan started researching everything he could about Thielen. He learned Thielen was a star basketball player in high school and people were surprised when he went to Mankato to play football.
Ryan could've published an entire book on Adam's love of sports, but something was missing - and that's when fate stepped in.
“A year ago my wife came home from school and said, ‘you know, the weirdest thing, one of the teachers at school told us she's cousins with a Minnesota Viking football player.’ And I freaked out. I said it ‘is it Adam Thielen? Please tell me it's Adam Thielen.’"
Thielen’s cousin, Lindsay Von Ruden is an elementary school teacher who always wanted to write a children's book.
“I did ask Adam and he said, ‘yeah I think you should, that's a really great opportunity," Lindsay said.
Ryan had all the sports angles covered, so Lindsay went to work on the personal side.
“I interviewed my aunt and uncle - his parents - his sisters, Caitlyn his wife and got any stories and information I personally didn't remember from our childhood," Lindsay said.
Thanks to Lindsay's insight and access, the pieces of Adam's story started to come together.
“We have his childhood, we have photos of him with his neighbors and best friends," Ryan said.
“He didn't really have any other neighbors other than Janaye. She lived a half mile away and they had a trail through the woods where they would visit and play sports together," Lindsay added.
Janaye even contributed to the book. Now a professional photographer, she's been there for some of Thielen's most memorable milestones.
“Adam contacted her and said ‘would you be willing to do a surprise engagement photo of our proposal,’…had it planned out at ice rink - beautiful moment - and she captured great photos there," Lindsay said.
Together, Lindsay and Ryan found stories few people outside the family had heard and got the scoop on stories already legendary in Vikings circles - including the one about Adam coming very close to working in dental equipment sales.
“He was working, getting as physically fit as he possibly could and preparing himself for tryouts for an NFL combine," Ryan said. "At the same time he also had to be looking for a job as a backup plan and he had interviewed at this company that sold dental equipment and in the end, it sounded like he was going to offer him an internship. He said ‘I appreciate that, but before I say yes I'm trying out with the Vikings in a few days, so I want to see how that goes. I try to imagine being the interviewer and going 'oh, OK.’"
“His story proves that you don't have to be great at something from day one. You're gonna have ups and downs, you're gonna struggle, but persistence can get you where you want to be," Lindsay added.
“I think back to when I was so excited he scored a touchdown – this is it, we have the ending. Who would've guessed a few years later he's being talked about as the best receiver in the NFL? Who would've guessed? It's just amazing. What an amazing story," Ryan said.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Or in Adam Thielen's case, history in the making.
“Adam Thielen: From Small Town to Football Star” is available for pre-sale right now wherever books are sold. It will officially be released this Tuesday. It's targeted for younger readers, fourth to eighth grade – or anyone who’s a fan.