Minnesota’s own Adam Thielen has grown to be a fan favorite among Minnesota Vikings fans. The undrafted prospect out of Minnesota State University of Mankato worked his way through the ranks — first as a practice squad player and then on specials team before becoming a two-time Pro Bowler and one of the NFL’s top wide receivers.
Rookie Dan Chisena hopes to do the same. Like Thielen, Chisena was undrafted out of college and signed after the 2020 NFL Draft. While many rookies are more projected to make a splash in the NFL, an undrafted rookie free agent is rarely a likely candidate. So why the hype for Chisena?
He has blistering straightaway speed and has already beaten the odds several times. Chisena was a walk-on for both Penn State’s track and football teams and later earned himself a full scholarship his senior year.
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) April 13, 2019
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Chisena’s Track Star Days And Friday Night Lights
In high school, Chisena was an all-conference wide receiver and state champion track runner, winning the 100, 200 and 4×100 relay as a senior. He walked on to Penn State’s football and track teams his freshman year and earned a track scholarship that prohibited him from playing on both teams as a sophomore.
“Ultimately, [I] made the decision to help out my family financially and try to excel at one sport instead of be average at two and decided to run track for a couple years,” Chisena told Vikings.com.
Chisena became far from average as a sprinter.
He was an All-American and helped the Nittany Lions win the Big 10 championship in 2017 and break several school records in the process. An injury his junior year in 2018 led him to reconvene with Penn State football coach James Franklin, who gave Chisena a second chance at football. He played in 12 games in 2019 for the Nittany Lions, who finished the season ranked ninth in the FBS.
Following Adam Thielen’s Path
Finishing his entire football career with just three catches for 66 yards, Chisena wasn’t drafted for his production in college, but rather, his potential.
Chisena ran an unofficial 4.32 40-yard dash, which would be the third-best time among all 2020 NFL draft picks. He’s big too. Standing 6-foot-3, Chisena is an inch taller than Thielen and could serve as a size and speed weapon for the Vikings who are lacking in deep threat receivers.
But what’s made Thielen into an NFL star is his route-running ability and dogged work ethic over the years. Chisena, who’s been running in straight lines for most of his athletic career, will have an opportunity to finally hone in on his football abilities for the first time in his career. There’s plenty of work to be done, and at age 23, he’s a bit older than the ideal project wide receiver.
A start could be on special teams as a gunner and a blocker on punt team, two positions Thielen played as he pushed himself up the Vikings depth chart.
From special teams to special stats.
With Adam Thielen becoming the first player in the Super Bowl era to start a season with six straight games of 100+ receiving yards, we take it back to his first career TD.
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) October 14, 2018
Come training camp on July 28, Chisena will have a chance to compete for a roster spot and make something of himself as one of the Vikings’ most intriguing developmental talents.
“I’m going to go in and do the best that I can with the opportunities that I’m given, and do whatever I can to help this team… at receiver or on special teams,” Chisena said. “I’m just looking forward to being grateful for whatever opportunities come my way and trying to take advantage of them and letting the things I can’t control take care of themselves.
Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and a journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.