United

Nearly 20 years ago, longtime banker and Maverick football alum Jim Sneer gave Minnesota State University, Mankato $50,000 toward a new artificial-turf football field that had been proposed.

When that project didn’t happen, the University offered Sneer his money back.

Instead of accepting that offer, Sneer asked that the money instead be used to somehow benefit the football program. So that contribution became the James and Susan Sneer Football Scholarship Endowment, which provides financial support for students in Maverick football.

Among the students who have received the scholarship is a player from Detroit Lakes: Adam Thielen.

Thielen was one of Coach Todd Hoffner’s first recruits to the Maverick Football team in 2008. He was a key component of the Maverick offense between 2009 and 2012; in his final year, he led the team in catches, yardage and touchdowns.

Now, Thielen is in the middle of a $27 million, three-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings. He’s become a star player who has brought attention not only to the Vikings, but to Minnesota State Mankato.

“You’re not going to find many guys like him,” Sneer says. “He’s just a tremendous person. I firmly believe that he has set some feelings for the Vikings team, period. Not only because he’s been a good player, but I think because of the way he lives.”

Sneer says he couldn’t be happier that Thielen was among those who benefitted from the scholarship. He points to the Thielen Foundation, a charitable organization founded by Thielen and his wife, Caitlin, also a Minnesota State Mankato graduate. The Foundation partners with and supports organizations that specialize in youth development. In 2018, the Foundation worked with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital to help kids dealing with mental health issues.

“It’s a tremendous, tremendous thing he did there,” Sneer says.

Sneer met Thielen at a Vikings summer camp in Mankato, where the two were introduced by Coach Hoffner. He also had a chance to meet him on the field at U.S. Bank Stadium earlier this season, where Thielen was able to thank both Jim and Sue for the scholarship that brought him to Mankato.

“He is tops,” Sneer says of the player who is now considered to be one of the top five receivers in pro football. “Football is not his entire life.”

Now a retired stockholder of United Prairie Bank, which he founded, Sneer played three seasons with the Mavericks in the late 1950s, first as a running back and later a defensive player. He earned a degree in business administration in 1959.

After graduation, Sneer worked at nearly every level of banking throughout the state, eventually purchasing Farmers State Bank in Mountain Lake in 1973. That bank expanded into several locations before consolidating in 1992 as one institution: United Prairie Bank. His son Stuart took over as president in 2002.

Today Sneer is enjoying retirement and seeing his days on the defensive line translating into scholarships for young players.

“The best thing of that whole time was the guys on the team,” he says. “They were excellent people, all of ’em.”

– Joe Tougas