MANKATO, Minn. -- As Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen finishes his time with his current team at Minnesota State University on Friday, his former team is getting back to work on the same fields, hoping for a season of normalcy following two years of turmoil.
Thielen was a senior at Minnesota State when coach Todd Hoffner was arrested on child pornography charges stemming from videos of his children on a school-issued cell phone. Charges against Hoffner were eventually dismissed, after a judge found the videos showed nothing more than innocent children's play after bathtime, but Hoffner was fired before Thielen's final season, and offensive coordinator Aaron Keen led the Mavericks to the NCAA Division II semifinals for the first time in school history.
The receiver caught 76 passes for 1,174 yards and eight touchdowns that season, and spent his first NFL season on the Vikings' practice squad. That allowed him to stay in touch with college teammates as Keen led the Mavericks to another undefeated regular season and the second round of the NCAA playoffs in 2013. When Hoffner came back to Minnesota State last spring, though, and players walked out on a spring practice to protest the sudden coaching change, Thielen took to Twitter to voice his support for Keen, calling him "an unreal coach and one of the best people I know."
The popular Keen is now an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan, Hoffner is back in charge at Minnesota State and Thielen is hoping his alma mater can move on.
"I think it was just the fact that we have a lot of respect for Coach Keen; he's a great football coach and great person. We're going to have his back," Thielen said. "I still keep in contact with coach Keen, and it had nothing to do with anything else -- just the fact he's a great guy."
Thielen, whose performance on his old college campus made him one of the stars of Vikings' training camp, said he stopped by Minnesota State's team pictures on Wednesday night to say hello to former teammates, who congratulated him on his bid to make the Vikings' roster. The Mavericks are down to a handful of starters who played with Thielen, mostly on the offensive line, but the receiver has become one of the more prominent products of the school's football program.
The Detroit Lakes, Minn., native said he'll be able to watch Minnesota State's game at Concordia (St. Paul) University this year, and might be able to make one trip to Mankato for a game.
"It's tough as an alumni to watch something like this go down," Thielen said. "You want the program to do well. I'm just looking forward to the season this year. I just want them to perform well, and I don't want any distractions for them. They're here to go to school and play football, and that's all they should be doing. I'm excited to see what happens."