EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (KMSP) - Every Minnesota Vikings player has at least four jerseys. It’s NFL regulation. Two white, two purple. Each backup jersey is just feet from the playing field. They don’t want anybody suddenly at a loss for something to wear.
For 49 years, the jerseys have endured countless changes - different styles, patches, and fittings. But through each stitch and trend, one woman has seamlessly sewn it all together. Penny Bryce has kept her team clothed and looking sharp.
“I can at least make ‘em look good,” Bryce said. “I wish I could make them play better sometimes, but at the very least I want them to look good.”
The official “seamstress” of the Vikings, Bryce began working on the jerseys in 1969. It was that year the NFL wanted to include a patch honoring their 50th anniversary. Bryce and her great aunt got to work. Apparently, the Vikings thought it was a job well done. Nearly five decades later, Bryce is still their needleworker of choice.
“I grew up in the business. My great aunt owned her own shop - my grandma was a big quilter,” Bryce said. “I’ve been around sewing pretty much my entire life.”
What started with patches, quickly turned into names. And as the years flew by, the styles and colors changed even faster.
“The uniforms have become much more custom fit, the styles have changed: multiple colors on the lettering, to screen printing, to stitching,” Bryce said.
Busy season comes just as training camp gets underway. Depending on the new crop of players, and any significant style changes, potentially hundreds of new jerseys need to be completed.
If that’s not enough, these days the players like to trade jerseys after each game - old college buddies looking for a piece of memorabilia directly off the back of their professional pal.
“Say our Vikings player went to college with a Tampa Bay player, they’ll trade jerseys with each other after the game,” Bryce said. “Makes for a lot more work, sometimes it’s a little hectic to replace them all, but it’s the latest trend.”
Uniformity is the name of the jerseys game, but every once in a while special treatment is not only acceptable, it’s a necessity.
“Everybody gets their name plaque sewed on once, but not [Dante] Culpepper,” Bryce said. “He always seemed to carry guys on his back, and they’d be hanging on his shirt, so we double stitched his twice.”
Just like her team on the field, Bryce has shared in the victories and a few moments she’d rather smooth over.
“Misspellings do happen every once in a while,” Bryce said. “Usually doesn’t make it on the field, but it does happen.”
A Vikings fan since the very beginning, Bryce admits she is ready to relinquish some of her duties. In fact, she’d like to usher in a new era, potentially passing the torch to a family member, as her great aunt passed it to her.
Regardless of who takes over or when, it will be hard to replace such a loyal force, and a stickler for the details.
“My aunt always said, ‘Whether its pee wee or pro, it needs to be quality work,’" said Bryce.