Another Minnesota State WR Will Try to Follow a Similar Path to Adam Thielen

Minnesota State WR
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) looks on during warmups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

For the past few years, Adam Thielen has been widely regarded as one of the better wide receivers in the entire NFL. He’s made multiple Pro Bowls, has been amongst the league leaders in touchdown catches multiple times, and he embodies the sentiment that hard work can help anyone accomplish their dreams.

It wasn’t always bright lights for Thielen, though. Vikings fans are well-aware of his humble beginnings as a Division II Minnesota State WR before being an undrafted free agent signing back in 2013. He had to slowly work his way up the roster from practice squad, to special teams contributor, to starting wide receiver.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen before the start of the Vikings game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)

Now, 10 years later, another Minnesota State-Mankato WR is trying to take a similar path. That player is Jalen Sample, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Washington Commanders. The signing was reported by Ben Standig of The Athletic.

Sample joined the Mavericks in 2017, and after redshirting that 2017 season, he played 14 games in 2018, recording 16 receptions, 286 yards, and a touchdown. His best season came in 2021 where he recorded 64 receptions, 1047 yards, and 8 touchdowns. 2022 looked like it was going to surpass that production, but he played just four games before a foot injury ended his season.

In all, the 6’6 receiver played 42 games over four seasons (redshirt in 2018, no D-II season in 2020 due to COVID) and recorded 114 receptions, 1898 yards, and 14 TDs.

Now, Sample joins a Washington Commanders team with the hopes of earning a roster spot this fall. He will be going up against a room that includes starters Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel as well as Dyami Brown, Alex Erickson, Dax Milne, Marcus Kemp, and Marcus Kyric McGowan.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Commanders
Jan 8, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin (17) runs with the ball for a touchdown as Dallas Cowboys linebacker Damone Clark (33) chases during the first quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the 2022 season, the former Mavericks did an interview with NFL Draft Diamonds. Take a look at what he had to say when asked to describe the role he fills in an offense:

I am primarily used as the “X” receiver to the boundary, where I draw single coverage on the backside and win on one-on-one routes. We are known for being a very physical team across the board and having a run-first based offense. While we beat them up in the run game that helps open things up in the passing game, allowing me to run very effective fade routes. I am a very unselfish player and know my role on the team, however I have tools that can translate to other offenses. I’m able to use my height and speed as an advantage. I’m accustomed to lining up out wide, and I have run plays in the slot in certain situations. I expect to move around a lot this season.

If Sample is able to appear in an NFL game this season, he will be the 11th player in Minnesota State’s program history to do so and the fourth since Thielen joined the Vikings.

In fact, by joining the Commanders, this marks three consecutive years that former Mavericks have joined an NFL team. TE Shane Zylstra joined the Detroit Lions in 2021 where he has played 17 games, and DE Brayden Thomas played a game for the Los Angeles Rams in 2022.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.