Gophers introduce uniforms with 'history'
MINNEAPOLIS — After much anticipation, the University of Minnesota football program unveiled its new uniforms Friday.
It's early, but the new threads are already a hit with the players.
"I love them a lot," said Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray, who was one of eight players to model the new jerseys. "When I first heard we were getting new uniforms, I couldn't wait to see."
Added defensive lineman Ben Perry: "They've got a little history to them. They kind of represent the old, but they represent what we're trying to do with the new."
The finished product, designed by Nike, is indeed a mix of new-school design with some tributes to Gophers teams of the past. The new maroon numbering on the team's yellow and white jerseys includes a brick pattern, which pays homage to Minnesota's time spent playing at Memorial Stadium. Some of the numbering is also the same that was used by teams in the 1940s.
The uniforms will make their debut Sept. 1 when the Gophers play at UNLV. The Gophers' first home game in the new jerseys will be Sept. 8 against New Hampshire.
Eight different color combinations can be created with yellow, white and maroon jerseys and pants. Each player seemed to have a different favorite.
"Early favorite, I like the white pants with the maroon tops," said linebacker Mike Rallis. "I think the maroon jersey with the no-outline numbers, I think that's a good look."
Perry said one combination reminds him of a successful Gophers team of the not-too-distant past.
"I think it's that maroon jersey with the gold pants," he said. "It looks a little bit like what (early 2000s running back) Marion Barber wore. I like that. … I like the all-white. Those might be my second. It's a close tie, but the maroon and gold might be my favorite."
Head coach Jerry Kill was also in attendance Friday, speaking to the media as well as a group of Gophers fans. The no-frills coach had his own opinion on his team's new look.
"When (they) go, ‘Hey, you've got to get over here for the press conference,' I said, ‘About the uniforms?' " Kill said. "I said, ‘When I was playing, you were lucky to get a pair of cleats and a T-shirt.' … The most important thing is what's inside the uniform, and we need to recruit some guys that look like those guys. What goes inside the uniforms is the difference between winning and losing."
Still, while the new uniforms may not make a noticeable difference on the field, team apparel has becoming increasingly important in the business of recruiting. For better or worse, high school players will take into consideration a team's uniform when making a decision on where to play.
Now that they've got new threads, the Gophers are hoping that will give them a leg up in recruiting.
"It seems like these days, more and more I keep hearing about guys looking at the new uniforms as a big piece of it," Rallis said. "To me, it never was. But it definitely doesn't hurt to have good-looking uniforms."
Even Kill agrees with that notion. He's spent the past few weeks on the recruiting trail, and said he'll head back out on the road Monday. Now when he recruits, he can add the tool of brand new uniforms.
"I think in this day and age for recruiting, everything's about visibility. The big stadiums, nice stadiums, uniforms — all that stuff goes into part of recruiting," Kill said. "There's every angle to it, but kids are into the nice uniforms and the flash and those kind of things. It certainly won't hurt us any."
The Gophers didn't go too flashy, though, unlike other schools. This past season, Maryland wore new Under Armour jerseys that had different designs on each half, both representing the Maryland state flag. And the Oregon Ducks, who also wear Nike uniforms thanks to donor and Oregon-based Nike co-founder Phil Knight, constantly change up their jerseys, seemingly trying to outdo the previous year's look.
But Minnesota's jerseys are more traditional — and the Gophers are just fine with that.
"I'm kind of happy they aren't that crazy," Perry said. "They have a little sense to them. I like the tradition. I've talked to a lot of people, and there's a lot of tradition behind this school. A lot of people didn't want too much of a big change, but what they did want was some old tradition but to kind of please the new, younger generation."
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