Everyone knows the story by now. Adam Thielen, a kid from Detroit Lakes, MN, played his college football at Division II Minnesota State Mankato. Like most D-II players, he didn't receive an invite to the 2013 NFL combine, and was set to go into dental sales until he decided to attend a regional combine in Chicago.
That turned into an invitation to a super regional combine in Dallas and eventually a rookie tryout with the Vikings. Thielen ended up impressing enough to land a contract and worked his way up from the practice squad to contributing on special teams to becoming a top-ten wide receiver in the NFL.
Thielen's journey is an extreme example, but there are countless other stories of players taking unconventional routes to the league after going undrafted. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a major blow to the NFL dreams of this year's crop of longshots.
"Honestly, I probably wouldn't be in the NFL if this would've happened my rookie year," Thielen said on a Zoom call with local media Tuesday. "It's kind of crazy to think about those things."
The shutdown caused by the virus resulted in the cancellation of countless Pro Days, camps, and regional combines. For small-school players, those are often their only chances to get in front of NFL teams and potentially get noticed. Some could try again next year, but not everyone can afford to wait that long before getting a "real" job.
If this had taken place seven years ago, maybe Thielen is still working in dental sales.
It did happen in 2020, and the unfortunate reality is that the pandemic might have robbed the NFL of the next Thielen.
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