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Determination on the gridiron

Determination on the gridiron
Determination on the gridiron
Jake Thieneman, a member of the 49ers practice squad, participates in a workout leading up to the Super Bowl. Submitted photos
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

When most people think of the Super Bowl, their mind goes to parties and food, friendly bets on who will win the game and time spent with friends and family gathered around the TV. But, for Jacob (Jake) Thieneman, it was a moment he had worked for his entire life, and his view of the game was from the center of Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla., surrounded by a deafening echo of screams and whistle blows.

Super Bowl LIV, Jake Thieneman
Front row, from left, Hilda Thieneman and Steve Thieneman, and back row, Soni O’Bannon, Brennan, Dillon, Kiera, Shannon and Ken Thieneman pose for a photo prior to Super Bowl LIV in Miami, Fla.

Jake, 23, is a member of the San Francisco 49ers roster, a team that ended its season with a 13-3 record, ultimately taking a hard, 31-20, loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. He is a 2014 graduate of Guerin Catholic High School and 2018 graduate of Purdue University, where he was a walk-on, two-year starter who made academic All-Big Ten, was an All-Big Ten honorable mention and served as team captain.

Jake is the son of Kenneth (Ken) D. and Shannon Striegel Thieneman, and grandson of Hilda Thieneman of Corydon and the late Donnie Thieneman. He entered the NFL after signing with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in May of 2019. He was waived by the Giants on June 13 then signed with the Indianapolis Colts on Aug. 26. However, he was waived again on Aug. 31 before landing as a safety with San Francisco.

Two traits that have not wavered for a moment, however, are Jacob’s perseverance and determination. And, apparently those have been traits his parents have seen in him since he was a kid.

“We noticed Jake’s drive early on as a child,” said his father, Ken. “He was always striving to be the best. We always called him ‘laser-focused Jake’ because once he set his mind on something it was all he would focus on. From education, with him being valedictorian of his graduating class, to his constant desire to be the best on the football field, the kid just won’t and can’t give up.”

While it seems that it would be easy for someone with such athletic talent on the football field to put all his eggs in one basket, Jake was adamant about receiving a great education as well. He finished on time at Purdue University with a degree in mechanical engineering. His mother, Shannon, said they wanted to make sure he had a strong education to fall back on if his dream of playing in the NFL didn’t come to fruition. But also, she suggested that his intelligence has been what has made him the exceptional football player he is today.

Super Bowl LIV, Jake Thieneman
Jake Thieneman stands with other defensive backs outside the team plane headed to Miami for Super Bowl LIV.

“His intelligence makes up for any area he lacks physically,” Shannon said. “He can predict things happening before they do or calculate the likelihood of something else happening all in the blink of an eye. Because Jake started as a walk-on player, we didn’t want him to pick a school solely based on its football program, but rather a place where he could get a good education. We were lucky enough that he got both of the things he wanted at Purdue, and it helped it was a short drive for us to watch him.”

With many setbacks, including injuries, being waived from teams and even time spent working in the corporate world outside of football, it is easy to prove the tenacity of Jacob Thieneman. And while his family suggests it is something he was born with, he attributes it to his observation of his family’s work ethic growing up.

“My family has always been hard workers,” said Jake. “I watched my dad build his company my whole life, and it might not be something he noticed but I try to mimic his grit and determination in all that I do. I fell in love with football in the third grade when I first gave it a try. The way that my family tackles any goal they have is the same outlook I took to football even at such a young age. I had a dream, and I have never really looked back since. I am just grinding it out day after day, and even through the setbacks I have had I can always think this is just going to bend me not break me, and, ultimately, I will always come out on the other side stronger.”

Super Bowl LIV, Jake Thieneman
Jake Thieneman stands with other defensive backs outside the team plane headed to Miami for Super Bowl LIV.

Hilda Thieneman, Jake’s  grandma  and Corydon native, said that in the same way their family tries to instill a hard work ethic they also encourage each other to stay grounded, and never think they are too good or better than any circumstance they are placed in.

“Jake always will have his family rooting him on and supporting him,” Hilda said. “No matter the level he achieves we are always there to remind him of his beginnings and how blessed we all are to watch him come as far as he has in such a short time. I just love to watch him play, no matter where in the world that is.”

With the season having recently ended, it would be assumed Jake is taking some time off and enjoying his off-season, but his training will start sooner rather than later for the coming season. And just like during every other period of his life, Jake has goals he is determined to reach.

“I want to come back next year and work my way up the depth chart,” Jake said. “I want to make the 52-man roster, and I am constantly striving to be better than I am the day before. It’s been an insane journey that I am so blessed to have been on, and I truly can’t wait to see what is next.”

Follow Jake’s career through his various social media channels: Instagram — @jakethesnake_41; Twitter — @jaket_41; by using the hashtag #followthejourney; or on Facebook.