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How Old is Adam Thielen in 2023 and What Are His NFL Career Highlights?

As a dedicated NFL fan like yourself, keeping up with your favorite players‘ ages and career achievements is all part of following the game closely. For veteran wide receiver Adam Thielen, his age entering the 2023 season is an interesting storyline, as some analysts debate whether the 33-year old can still perform at a high level. By exploring Thielen‘s background, career accolades, and recent season, we can better appreciate this respected player‘s lasting skill and determination to succeed after turning 30.

Let‘s start at the beginning – Adam John Thielen was born on August 22, 1990 in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. That makes him 33 years old as of October 2023. Drafted in 2013 by the Minnesota Vikings, he has played his entire 10 season career so far with them, before being released in March 2023 and subsequently picked up by the Carolina Panthers.

Now 33 years into life and 11 seasons into his NFL journey, some are understandably skeptical that Thielen can maintain the electrifying form of his earlier years. However, looking back at his achievements and resilience, I wouldn‘t bet against him just yet. Here‘s a more in-depth review of Thielen‘s background, career highlights, recent season performance, and free agency outlook that will give you a fuller profile of this star veteran receiver entering the 2023 NFL campaign.

From Small Town to NFL Stardom – Adam Thielen‘s Football Journey

Like many NFL stars, Adam Thielen took an unconventional path to pro football fame. He was born in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota – a small town with a population just over 8,500 at the 2010 census. Playing for Detroit Lakes High School, Thielen excelled as a multi-sport athlete – competing in football, baseball, basketball, and even golf.

Beyond the typical high school sports, Thielen also helped out working maintenance jobs to earn some extra cash, showing his dedication and work ethic from an early age.

After high school, Thielen opted to play collegiate football close to home at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. This was a Division II program, typically not the pipeline for NFL talent that larger DI schools can provide. However, Thielen made his mark at MSUM, playing wide receiver and kick/punt returner. His accolades included:

  • NSIC Offensive Player of the Year (2012)
  • First team All-NSIC (2011, 2012)
  • Two time All-American (2011, 2012)
  • Holds school records for career receptions (199) and receiving yards (3,119)

Given his small school background, Thielen unsurprisingly went undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft. But through a regional combine tryout, he secured an invitation to the Vikings rookie minicamp. There he impressed enough to land a roster spot, starting out primarily playing special teams.

College Scouting Profile and Early Career

Let‘s look at some of Thielen‘s strengths and weaknesses coming out of college:


  • Precise route runner
  • Impressive footwork and body control
  • Good release off the line of scrimmage
  • Reliable hands and ability to catch in traffic
  • Willing blocker


  • Average size and strength for NFL receiver
  • Lack of explosive speed or quickness
  • Raw technique and unpolished skills given Division II experience

Buried on the depth chart initially with the Vikings, he worked his way onto offensive snaps through tireless special teams play. In 2014 he saw his first offensive action in the passing game – recording 8 receptions for 137 yards over the full season.

His chance to shine came in 2016 when he secured a starting WR job, recording 69 catches for 967 yards and 5 TDs that season. Thielen had clearly earned the trust of the coaching staff through his work ethic, reliability, and precision route running. And this would prove to be just the beginning of his rise to stardom.

Career Accomplishments and Awards

Adam Thielen may have entered the NFL as an overlooked small-school product, but he swiftly made his mark once given the opportunity. Here‘s a run-down of some of his top career highlights and accolades over 10 seasons with the Vikings:

  • 2017 Pro Bowl – After his breakout 2016 campaign, Thielen followed it up with an even better 2017 notching 91 catches for 1,276 yards – earning his first of back-to-back Pro Bowl nods.

  • Led NFL with 100 Receptions in 2017 – Going from strength to strength, Thielen topped the league with 100 receptions in 2017 – the first Vikings player to accomplish this feat.

  • 2018 Pro Bowl – On the heels of his 100-catch season, Thielen earned his 2nd straight Pro Bowl in 2018 after another dominant campaign tallying 113 receptions and 1,373 receiving yards.

  • First Vikings Player With Consecutive 1,200+ Yard Seasons (2016-2018) – Along with the receptions, Thielen was consistently among league leaders in receiving yards during this peak stretch.

  • 2019 Minnesota Vikings Offensive MVP – A nagging hamstring injury hampered Thielen in 2019, but he still managed 418 yards and 6 TDs in just 10 games – enough to earn Team MVP honors.

Beyond the on-field production, Thielen‘s poise, work ethic, and leadership earned him the respect of teammates and fans alike. Case in point – in 2018 Thielen famously streaked all the way across the field to help block for Stefon Diggs on the Minneapolis Miracle touchdown. It takes a true team player to race 50 yards to throw one last timely block!

Recent Performance in 2022 Proves He‘s Still Got It

Now, I know what you may be thinking as a dedicated NFL fan – "Sure, his career has been great, but is the 33-year old Thielen still able to compete at a high level?"

It‘s a fair question given the wear and tear of 10 NFL seasons taking its toll. However, by taking a closer look at Thielen‘s 2022 campaign, it becomes evident he‘s still far from finished in this league.

Let‘s examine his statistical output last season:

  • In 2022, Thielen recorded 70 receptions for 716 yards and 6 touchdowns.

  • This yardage output ranked him 52nd among all NFL receivers – certainly not elite, but still respectable for a 30+ receiver.

  • His receptions ranked him 44th league-wide. Again, not Pro Bowl caliber, but far from a liability.

  • Thielen‘s 6 receiving TDs tied him at #25 among all receivers – solid production especially in the red zone.

Now you may notice his raw totals decreased from his prime years – for example his yardage and receptions ranked 2nd on the Vikings behind star Justin Jefferson‘s 108 catches and 1,809 yards.

But when adjusting for games played, Thielen remained consistent:

  • His per game averages in 2022 included 4.4 receptions, 44.8 yards, and 0.4 TD

  • Compared to his career rates of 5.1 receptions, 72.5 yards, and 0.5 TD

The slight decline is expected with his age, but the bottom line is Thielen continued producing despite creeping up on his mid-30s.

Looking deeper at his game logs, Thielen proved he could still deliver standout performances when needed:

  • In Week 1, he led the team with 6 catches, 61 yards receiving, and 2 TDs

  • Week 3 saw another 6 catch, 61 yard effort, with a touchdown in a close win over the Lions

  • A vintage 9 reception, 122 yard, 1 TD output came in Week 8 fueling an OT comeback victory over the Cardinals

And he saved some of his best for last – in the Vikings Wild Card playoff loss to the Giants, Thielen snagged 5 passes for 65 yards.

So while not matching the gaudy stats of his prime, Thielen clearly still has the ability to be a difference maker. His 2022 campaign showed enough savvy and skill at 33 years old to potentially keep producing for a couple more seasons.

Perceived Decline Draws Unfair Criticism

With his slight statistical decrease, however, the doubters emerged questioning whether Thielen could still cut it in the NFL. Some examples of media criticism included:

  • Pro Football Focus pointing to declining athletic metrics – labeling him as "rarely creating meaningful separation" in their 2022 receiver rankings. Thielen fired back asserting he‘s "created separation at a high level" his entire career.

  • The Athletic‘s Arif Hasan noted his diminished yards per route run compared to earlier seasons. Hasan speculated Thielen may only have a limited role in the Vikings‘ future plans.

  • Ben Goessling of the Minnesota Star Tribune highlighted Thielen‘s 11.4% drop rate – one of the highest in the NFL. He contrasted it with his sure handed prime when Thielen went 98 catches without a drop in 2017.

The decline in statistics opened the door to these criticisms. However, I would argue the narrative was overblown and reactionary. Even the best receivers are bound to slow down entering their mid-30s. But Thielen maintained enough production and veteran savvy to still warrant a starting job.

Unfortunately the Vikings ultimately decided to move on, releasing Thielen in March 2023. This closed the chapter on a 10-year Vikings tenure that saw Thielen go from small-school long shot to stardom. Next we‘ll look at what opportunities still await in the next chapter of Thielen‘s career.

Projecting Thielen‘s Next Move in 2023 and Beyond

When the Vikings parted ways with Thielen, it kickstarted speculation about which teams could be interested in signing the veteran receiver. Here were some of the potential landing spots floated:

New England Patriots – Bill Belichick loves adding experienced veterans, so New England seemed a possible fit. Thielen‘s precise route running and versatility would have provided value across the Patriots‘ offense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – With Tom Brady‘s retirement, the Bucs have question marks at receiver. Thielen could have helped fill the void and given Brady a reliable target if the star QB elected to return.

Las Vegas Raiders – With Davante Adams now in the fold, the Raiders could use a savvy complementary starting receiver like Thielen to round out their corps.

Carolina Panthers – The Panthers ultimately won the Thielen sweepstakes, signing him to a 1-year $4 million deal in March. The young, rebuilding Panthers will lean on Thielen‘s veteran presence and persistence to lead their raw receiver room.

While the contract represents a pay cut from Thielen‘s $13 million 2022 compensation, he wisely prioritized opportunity in Carolina over maximizing dollars. With the Panthers, he‘ll get a shot to prove he still deserves a starting role – allowing Thielen to write another chapter in his underdog-turned-star story.

Knowing Thielen‘s grit and work ethic, I‘m confident he can continue playing at a high level into his mid-30s. Considering all receivers not named Jerry Rice decline with age, the exaggerated narrative of Thielen‘s demise has been overstated. Just look at his production in 2022 and there are clearly enough tools left in the kit for Thielen to thrive in Carolina.

So in summary – yes, Adam Thielen is 33 years old, an age where all athletes start working against the clock. But his track record of determination and the flashes of playmaking he still showed last season demonstrate that he‘s far from finished. I can‘t wait to watch Thielen‘s next act with Carolina, as he continues defying expectations and critics who want to brush him aside as washed up.

Conclusion – Thielen‘s Age and Career Review

Hopefully this comprehensive profile has provided ample evidence that Adam Thielen remains capable of impacting games as he enters his 12th season in the NFL at 33 years old. While no longer in his athletic prime after 30, his stellar career filled with highlights like Pro Bowls and an NFL reception title gives a blueprint of success that Thielen can replicate going forward.

By recapping his small-town Minnesota roots, college accolades, draft profile, Vikings tenure, 2022 season analysis, media criticism, and free agency outlook, we now have a deeper appreciation for Thielen‘s journey. He has shown resilience time and again when challenged, defying doubters who questioned his ability. Now in Carolina, I‘m eager to watch Thielen continue that same determined quest to maximize his talents, regardless of age.

So when looking at Adam Thielen in 2023 and beyond, remember – skilled route runners with great football intelligence can still outwit opponents even with a step of speed lost to Father Time. And Thielen has those veteran mental tools in spades, making him far from finished in this league.


  • How old is Adam Thielen in 2023?

    • Adam Thielen is 33 years old, as he was born on August 22, 1990.
  • What were some of Adam Thielen‘s top career highlights with the Vikings?

    • Career highlights included Pro Bowl selections in 2017 & 2018, leading the NFL with 100 receptions in 2017, and recording 1,200+ receiving yards from 2016-2018.
  • How did Thielen perform in the 2022 season?

    • In 2022, Thielen recorded 70 catches for 716 yards and 6 TDs. His per game averages were close to his career rates, showing he can still produce.
  • What NFL teams showed interest in signing Thielen for the 2023 season?

    • The Patriots, Buccaneers, and Raiders all emerged as potential landing spots before Thielen ultimately signed with the Carolina Panthers.
  • At age 33, can Adam Thielen still perform at a high level in the NFL?

    • Yes, despite being 33 years old, Thielen still has the veteran savvy, precise route running, and work ethic to continue producing at a starter level for a couple more seasons.


Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.