Caitlin Thielen reflects on life in Woodbury as she and her husband, Adam Thielen, embark on a new adventure.
On the day the Minnesota Vikings stunned the nation with the biggest comeback win in NFL history, Caitlin Thielen watched, riveted, from the stands. Mic’d up and surrounded on either side by her parents, with her three young kids taking turns in her lap, Caitlin cheered and chanted, pointing out her husband, wide receiver Adam Thielen, to her children. When the game turned and was then bolstered by a touchdown pass to her husband, Caitlin leapt from her seat, the picture of fierce loyalty and competitive spirit.
It’s a life she never expected, but it’s one she feels entirely blessed to be living. “We just feel like [God’s] given us this platform and this position for a reason. Everything that happens, negative or positive, we try to make it into something positive,” Caitlin says. “It’s been a crazy few years!”
If you’ve lived in Woodbury long enough, chances are you’ve seen Caitlin and her family around town. Maybe your paths crossed at a local gym or you passed by the family on a stroll at a local park. Perhaps you remember her as a classmate at Woodbury High School (WHS) or as a star player on the WHS soccer team.
For more than a decade—and for Caitlin, even longer—the Thielens have called Woodbury home. Though Adam recently signed with the North Carolina Panthers after a lengthy career with the Minnesota Vikings—with the Thielen family now settled into life in Charlotte, North Carolina—home will always be synonymous with Woodbury in Caitlin’s eyes.
“I would sum [Woodbury] up as home,” Caitlin says. “It’s a beautiful city, and I think it’s a great place to raise a family.”
And she would know. Born in Appleton, Wisconsin, Caitlin was a born-and-bred Green Bay Packers fan for much of her life—even after moving to Woodbury at the age of 7. The youngest in a family of highly competitive athletes (Her dad played baseball at University of Wisconsin-Madison.), Caitlin grew up being the bat girl at her older brother’s games and quickly found a home and identity on the soccer field. Alongside her two older brothers, Caitlin attended Middleton Elementary, Lake Middle School and WHS, where she played all four years on the varsity soccer team. Simply put, she grew up here.
“I loved Woodbury High School. It was awesome,” Caitlin says. “Those were the years Woodbury was good at soccer. We went to state all four years.”
It was soccer that led her to Iowa State University’s NCAA Division I program (that she signed onto as a high school sophomore). And it was soccer that led her back to Minnesota. “I ended up not really liking the soccer aspect [at Iowa State] … I was going to transfer to the University of Minnesota, but I ended up choosing [Minnesota State University,] Mankato, something a little less intense,” Caitlin says.
At Minnesota State University, Mankato, she officially met Adam. (They were Facebook friends long before. “People probably thought I [transferred] because of him, but I really didn’t know him very well actually,” she says.) Though Adam’s intentions were obvious, Caitlin friend-zoned him for months before deciding to give him a chance during her junior year. “He was really after me for a few years, so I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll give you a chance.’ And then I realized we actually had a lot more in common,” Caitlin says.
A year later, they were engaged. “Wait, actually let me think,” Caitlin says, pausing to do mental math. “Did I get engaged in college? That seems weird right now, but OK, yeah, that was right.”
“We were best friends, and we just knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together,” she adds.
Upon her graduation, Caitlin decided to pause her graduate school plans (to study speech pathology) as Adam found his footing on the Minnesota Vikings practice squad. “That’s what’s so hard that I think people don’t understand, is the wives or significant others … they can have a job, but you almost have to be at a flexible job … because you can move. No contract is guaranteed,” she says.
With Adam’s trajectory as an athlete—football at a NCAA Division II school, undrafted, fighting for a place on a professional team—the future was uncertain. “For an undrafted free agent like Adam, it’s very hard to make it as your position. You kind of have to work your way up, and if you don’t, you’ll just get cut,” Caitlin says. “… I didn’t know if Adam would play anymore or not. An NFL career is so short, so I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll just enjoy this year with him because he probably won’t be back next year. We really didn’t think it would last long. We didn’t know.”
Then it happened, for Adam—and for Caitlin. A wedding. A record-making NFL career. A family. And life hasn’t stopped since. “We just got thrown into it, and it’s just a different world, a different lifestyle,” Caitlin says. “It just happened, and then every year we’re just like, “Oh, my gosh, another year.”
Over the last decade, Caitlin has worked toward creating her own identity in an often limiting environment. “A lot of the girls talk about it, too, like your husband or significant other is this [professional athlete and public figure], and like who are you as the significant other? That’s been, especially the first few years, that was really hard for me. I didn’t know. I was just his wife, and I was just a mom. So, that was really hard for me,” Caitlin says.
Launching her blog, Life with Mrs. T, allowed Caitlin to reflect on her identity and passions. She started to share pieces of herself: her love of cooking and baking, her journey into motherhood and her fitness regimen.
“I have so many different passions. I’ve never been like, ‘I’m going to be a doctor’ … I’m kind of all over. That’s why I started the blog a while ago,” Caitlin says. “I wanted to … showcase our life and what it’s like as an NFL family, and that it’s honestly, at least for us, it’s not very different than normal families.”
On her blog, Caitlin covers topics like potty training, traveling with her young kids (Asher, 6, Hudson, 4, and Cora, 2), recapping big Minnesota Vikings moments and goings-on with The Thielen Foundation. Her posts are sincere, insightful and, at times, vulnerable. Through sharing, she’s found a group of supporters.
“Life with Mrs. T is a really great group of moms, who will help each other out and ask questions, and I’ll ask questions a lot, too. It’s pretty cool to have that community on social media, and it’s also cool that people want to know certain things about my life,” she says.
Even so, Caitlin says there’s a risk to being so open on social media. “I think it can be so negative sometimes and hurtful. Honestly, it’s scary for my kids. I’m scared in the next 10 years what it’s going to look like, I really am. But I hope that the way we talk to them about it and stuff, that it can definitely be used for positive,” she says.
Since her daughter, Cora, was born in 2021, Caitlin hasn’t been able to be as active on her blog. “The man-to-man was good for us, but the three is like, ‘Phew,’” she says. In full on mom-mode, made especially difficult during football season when Adam only has one day off, she often finds herself making multiple meals a night (“Everyone wants not what I make,” she says.) and using naptime to accomplish necessary tasks, like putting away the dishes or folding laundry. When Adam’s away for long periods, she makes sure to take time for herself, hire a sitter and go for dinner out with friends. It’s a balancing act, but one she loves.
“I always had hoped to be a stay-at-home mom if it was in God’s plan … I just think it’s so cool, if you’re able to, to see your kids grow up,” she says. “It goes so fast. Even Asher right now, he will be in first grade, but he’s just so tall. And I get all the flashback pictures on my phone, and I’m like, ‘How did that happen?’”
With the move to Charlotte at the end of July—and with it a few days per week at a Pre-K program for the youngest Thielens, Hudson and Cora—Caitlin sees the unexpected upheaval as an opportunity to recalibrate.
“It’s so sad, but it’s also exciting,” Caitlin says. “I know Adam is really excited about this new opportunity, but it’s hard when you’ve been on a team so long, and we know everything about it and now you’re just starting over. So, it’s kind of scary and nerve wracking, but we’re all so excited. Like I said, it’s a new adventure.”
Rapid Fire Q&A:
Closet essential: Yoga pants
The last show you binged/book you read: Adam and I watched The Night Agent [on Netflix] and then for a book, The Wife Upstairs [by Rachel Hawkins].
Three words a friend would use to describe you: Fun, competitive and loving.
Favorite way to be active: I love running, lifting, strength … A couple top ones in Woodbury are definitely Basecamp or CorePower, and I go to Life Time, too, just because they have daycare. And I have a Peloton, and I love it, which I never have biked ever, but I love it.
Favorite Woodbury memory: Woodbury Days. Growing up, me and one of my best friends would always ride our bikes with my mom to the parade. We would go to the same spot every year. We’d get the V’s [a style of face paint] and all that fun stuff. It’s just so fun now bringing the kids. They get so excited for it, and seeing them watch it brings back those memories from my childhood. And even like last year going to a couple Friday night Woodbury High School football games. It was so fun. I feel like I was just here playing on this field.
Favorite place to eat in Woodbury: Probably Hazelwood [Food + Drink] nowadays, me and Adam both love that spot or probably The ’Wick, too.
What you will miss most about Minnesota: Probably just the people … Especially the Vikings fans, too. It was just so fun to interact with them and show them behind-the-scenes stuff of our life at least … it’s so sentimental with Adam being [Minnesota] born and raised, and him being like a huge Vikings fan growing up. I just feel like we really connected with fans here … But, yeah, mostly the people and the friends I’ve made along the way. Not the snow!