For the Gophers design team, creativity is key

This week, the design team is working on a product relating to military service.

The Gophers' helmet against Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 16, 2017 was in celebration of Goldy Gopher's birthday.

Jack Rodgers

The Gophers’ helmet against Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 16, 2017 was in celebration of Goldy Gopher’s birthday.

Max Biegert

On the sidelines, Gophers fans have seen a lot of change. In January, not only did the Gophers get a new football coach, but they got a new sense of style when head coach P.J. Fleck entered the building.

“What I think is cool is that I like to be really creative and we have a lot of resources at the University that are way more creative than I am,” Fleck said. “To put all of our heads together in creative meetings is a benefit for everybody.”

Will Henry is the lead designer on the staff for the Gophers. Many coaches on the recruiting staff, along with Henry, work with Kyle Gergely and his equipment team to create the best look for game day and elsewhere.

“We brainstorm ideas and those branch off into other ideas and it is fun for us,” Henry said. “It’s an exciting work environment.” 

The creative team’s first job was to create Fleck’s shoes he wore to the spring game. The shoes were painted maroon and gold and had Fleck’s mantra, “Row The Boat”, engrained in the side of the shoe and “Elite” on the back. Since then, the creative team has designed a new shoe for each game for Fleck to wear, all with different styles.

Henry said making the shoes takes time. The shoes Fleck wore for the spring game took more than 25 hours to make because of the texture of the shoe which made it tricky for them to do what they wanted, Henry said. Since then, the shoes that have been made for the regular season take about 15 total hours to make. Henry said that they have been hitting their stride and have the process down now. 

“[The shoes] are just another creative outlet for me,” Henry said. “It is fun to take something we do in our free time and bring notoriety to the program and our culture through the shoes. We don’t look at it as something that we are forced to do, we do it because we like it and it is fun,” 

To commemorate Goldy’s birthday, Fleck and the creative team chose to go all gold for their mascot’s birthday. The helmet had Goldy’s face on one side of it, along with a tail as the stripe going down the middle. The shoes Fleck wore had Goldy’s faced engrained on the front of the all gold shoes to match the players’ uniforms.

“Coach Fleck and my staff meet and we bring in all the jerseys combos and mix and match decals and colors and take into consideration the different events going on at the time,” Gergely said. 

Uniswag, a Twitter account that ranks uniforms in sports, has 90,000 followers and ranked Minnesota’s jerseys in No. 9 in week two and No. 1 in week three. 

It was once only Oregon that had the flashy uniforms, but now it seems that all programs have adopted this new, flashy style. Even traditional schools such as Notre Dame and Penn State have changed their old ways to welcome the new style. 

“This generation of players like those things where it makes a splash on the internet and when you change some things up it is pretty cool,” Gergely said.  

This weekend, the design team focuses on a salute to service, with Henry making a new pair of shoes that will embrace the salute to service, and Gergely helping to decide what uniforms to wear and how to commemorate the event. 

“We want to be unique, nobody that ever made a difference did anything that everyone did,” Fleck said. “Not trying to do [different], but we are just being ourselves.”