The Vikings’ relationship with Penny Bryce began back in 1969, when the team needed a shoulder patch sewn onto its jerseys to mark the NFL’s 50th anniversary.
It officially ended Friday, when Bryce sewed Mike Hughes’ name onto the back of the jersey he wore at his introductory press conference.
The first-round pick’s name was the last one Bryce would affix to a jersey, after spending 49 years working with the team out of her shop in Hopkins. Bryce is retiring, having sold Hopkins Garment Lettering Service, and the Vikings will begin sending their jerseys to a shop in Pine City that also handles the Gophers’ football uniforms.
“We can’t find anybody to do it less than 60 miles away,” Vikings equipment manager Dennis Ryan said.
It’s not an easy job to fill; last year alone, Bryce sewed names onto more than 700 practice and gameday jerseys, Ryan said.
How many has she done over the course of 49 years?
“It has to be in the thousands,” she said.
The demands of the job have increased in recent years, as players have started trading jerseys with opponents.
“It’s been last-minute stuff of, ‘We need another [Stefon] Diggs jersey, because he just traded it,’ ” Ryan said.
The hardest assignment for Bryce might have been in 1987. During the 24-day NFL players’ strike, when replacement players were being shuttled in and out of the organization each day, Ryan would sit in Bryce’s office, ripping names off one jersey while she sewed a different name on another.
Bryce said sewing a name on the back of a jersey typically takes her about 20 minutes, though “if it’s [Teddy] Bridgewater, it’s a little longer,” she said.
She had help from a part-time employee, and a couple women who had machines in their home, but “most all of them, I’ve sewn on the jersey,” she said.