After they arrived for summer practices and first saw their weight room upgraded with new equipment, the athletes at Brooklyn Center High School mostly assumed the free weights and kettlebells in the room had arrived because of funding in the school’s budget.
As they found out Tuesday, that wasn’t exactly the case.
The upgrades had arrived courtesy of Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen’s charitable foundation, and Thielen and his wife, Caitlin, foresee more coming.
They announced a partnership with the high school Tuesday that initially includes the weight room renovation and a $10,000 donation for sports equipment, as well as a $1,000 scholarship for a varsity athlete on each of the school’s teams. Eventually, the Thielens hope, the partnership will include strength and conditioning consultants from ETS Sports Performance — the company Thielen runs with his trainer, Ryan Englebert — and possibly new lights for a football stadium that currently doesn’t have any.
The program at Brooklyn Center, the Thielens said, is a pilot program that could expand to other schools. Their idea was initially met with some skepticism from other high schools in the area who were worried they might not be able to drive enough academic improvement to trigger some of the Thielen Foundation’s incentives: The organization is rewarding students who finish their sports seasons with at least a 2.0 grade-point average. But if things go well at Brooklyn Center, the Thielens hope they’ll be able to pitch the idea to other schools, using the Centaurs as an academic and athletic success story.
“We’re really thankful they were open to the idea,” Adam said. “We think it could be something that, if it goes well, we can say, ‘Hey, this is what was able to happen at this school, and we’d like to do the same thing.’ ”
The program, in the meantime, could be a boon to Brooklyn Center, a school of about 450 students where 79% of the population was eligible for free or reduced-price lunch last year.
At a meeting this summer, Brooklyn Center athletic director Nate Gautsch struck up a conversation with Amy Sinclair, who runs the Thielen Foundation. Sinclair told Gautsch the Thielens were looking to help a local high school improve its sports program, and use athletics as a catalyst for greater academic success.
“One day, she sent me an e-mail saying, ‘Here’s a list; here’s what we’re going to do — not what we’d like to do,’ ” Gaustch said. “And then weight room equipment showed up. And cleats started showing up. It was just kind of like, ‘This is real.’ ”
Englebert looked through the school’s request list and determined what was essential for Brooklyn Center to have. At an assembly Tuesday, Adam and Caitlin Thielen surprised students at Brooklyn Center, fielding questions from athletes, posing for photos and handing out new Adidas shoes to every athlete in a fall sport.
They reminisced about their time playing under the lights in high school — Adam as a football player at Detroit Lakes, Caitlin as a soccer player at Woodbury — and hoped the students at Brooklyn Center could soon have the same thrill.
“I think that everybody should have the same opportunities,” Adam said. “Just because you grew up in a different area, I think it’s kind of a bummer that some areas can play under the lights and have that experience, and some can’t — or just the simplest things, like having the right equipment for games. That’s something we looked at as why we want to give back; if they have the drive and they have the passion, they can have success.”
Alexander stays off IR
While the Vikings could be without nickel cornerback Mackensie Alexander in the short term because of the dislocated right elbow he suffered against the Falcons on Sunday, they likely won’t have to put Alexander on injured reserve.
A league source said Alexander’s MRI showed he won’t need surgery, meaning he could return sooner than the eight-week absence he’d be required to have if placed on injured reserve. In the meantime, the Vikings could turn to safety Jayron Kearse in the slot, at least until cornerback Mike Hughes is ready to return from the torn ACL he suffered last October.
Vikings re-sign Jones
Though they released Brett Jones last Tuesday, the Vikings left a telltale sign the guard could be returning soon: They kept his nameplate above his locker.
The Vikings made the move official, bringing back Jones and releasing tight end Brandon Dillon. Because the Vikings kept the fourth-year player off their roster for the first week of the season, they were able to avoid guaranteeing his $810,000 base salary for the season as a vested veteran.
The team also released kicker Chase McLaughlin from the practice squad, likely clearing space for Dillion to rejoin the group once he clears waivers.