MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Part of being a die-hard Vikings fan means wearing your favorite player's jersey. It's been fun to see how their apparel has changed over the years with different styles and logos. Even with all those changes, Vikings jerseys have had one very strong common thread for nearly 50 years.
It's football season in Minnesota, that time of year when guys like Bridgewater, Peterson, Greenway, Diggs, Smith and Patterson become household names. But for one very unassuming fan, the big names aren’t a big deal – unless of course they’re crooked.
“I was real worried when we put our captain C's on this year that they look straight,” Penny Bryce said. “Like I said 'I want it to look right and really good.'"
Bryce is the official “seamstress” of the Minnesota Vikings and has been for 46 years.
“People would say ‘you're going to your job, what do you do?’ And I'd say ‘well we put lettering on jackets and sweatshirts’ and they'd go, 'oh I didn't know how that got on there, I guess somebody has to do it.'"
Somebody has to, but not just anybody. Penny says you got to be a stickler for detail, with a strong aversion to squishing.
“When we have really long names, we've got to squish them together,” Bryce said.
It's pretty remarkable when you think about it. Penny has had a hand in every Vikings jersey worn in the last several decades. In that time, she's watched the jersey trends evolve -- going from no names, to screen printing to the stitching we see today.
“The 70's were really exciting because you know all the Super Bowls were then and Bud Grant, and you didn't trade or change players so much so you were really doing the same people all the time, you seem like you got to know them,” Bryce said.
It was consistency and predictability. Luxuries that would, in time, fall apart at the seams.
“Probably the worst year was the replacement year when we had the replacement players and I'm trying to sew new names and we're trying to figure out who's going to get what number,” she said. “It was really dicey to get those things done for that game."
And then there was that one time a player's name was misspelled and no one noticed… until everyone noticed -- “And the announcers go (and of course it was when we weren't doing well) and they go 'oh even the equipment man or the spelling, they're having a tough year'… just a knife to the heart."
But Bryce had her share of victories, too. She studies these games and players so closely; she knows exactly which ones need reinforcements.
“That is the only jersey we sewed on double was Culpepper. He would just carry him and they'd be hanging on his shirt and so I’d kind of hold my breath every time that it don't come loose!"
Recently, the Vikings honored Penny and her team at Winter Park for nearly 50 years of dedication.
“They're just all young guys but they're all very gracious and nice and very polite,” she said.
It was a sweet moment for this seamstress who went from putting names to jerseys, to putting names to faces.
And in her one chance to tell these guys how much they meant to her, Bryce let them know she'll have their backs -- “I want good quality work out there, you don't sacrifice anything."
And hopes they'll have hers in return.
"I'd like a Super Bowl, really bad," she said.