The Minnesota Vikings aren’t afraid to roll the dice on homegrown, unnoticed talent. This is illustrated by the storybook story of Adam Thielen, everybody’s favorite dental equipment salesman turned Pro Bowl wide receiver. They hope the same success with fellow Minnesota State alumni Shane Zylstra, a tight end, who just inked a deal to come to Minnesota as an undrafted free agent.
Zylstra has more connections to the Vikings than Thielen. His brother Brandon was with the Vikings for the entirety of the 2018 season. Brandon recorded one catch for 23 yards in a Vikings 37-17 victory over the New York Jets that year. He also returned 4 punts for an average of 6.5 yards and 1 kick for a return of 15 yards. The elder Zylstra is now with the Carolina Panthers where he has had more opportunity, but he has yet to crack 200 career receiving yards or score a touchdown.
The younger Zylstra may have a better at NFL success both due to his position. When Brandon was competing for a spot on the roster, the Vikings had Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Laquan Treadwell, Chad Beebe and Aldrick Robinson. In 2018, they seemed more than content to carry only five receivers most of the year. Currently, the Vikings only tight ends with significant NFL playing time are Irv Smith Jr and Tyler Conklin. They also are only carrying two other tight ends, Brandon Dillon and Zach Davidson.
Shane is taller than his brother, by two inches (6’4″ vs 6’2″), and has ten pounds on his older brother (225 vs 215). He also put up huge numbers for Minnesota State. He is the Mavericks all-time leader in receptions (227), receiving yards (4,297), and receiving touchdowns (54). In 2019, he led Division II football and established single-season school records with 81 receptions for 1,676 yards, and 18 touchdowns. Those 81 receptions broke Adam Thielen’s, and Chad Ellman’s, previous record at Minnesota State.