If you’re a Minnesota Vikings fan, you recognize the Purple Pimps. It’s impossible to miss them. Whether on the JumboTron, in the tailgate lot, or across official Vikings marketing material, the two men in purple suits have been iconic for the team for several seasons now.
But what is the real story behind the Purple Pimps?
Meet Jon Herzig, the man behind the suit.
Herzig grew up in Minnetonka, MN, and like most of the die-hard fans we’ve met, his father played a major role in his son’s passion for the Vikings.
“Growing up, my dad would listen to the games on the radio when we were doing chores in the garage or yard work,” Herzig said. “Ever since my Dad told me about the Purple People Eaters—talking to me about Jim Marshall, Carl Eller and Alan Page—I was hooked.”
Herzig’s passion for the Vikings was clear from the beginning, but it was not until 2005 that the Purple Pimps concept was born. That year, Herzig borrowed a cheap Halloween purple pimp costume from his brother. His dad added horns to the matching hat, and superfan attended Vikings game in the getup.
“I even went to the Green Bay game at Lambeau, and my dad painted a cheese head hat purple and added horns, so I was a ‘cheesy pimp,'” Herzig said.
The following year, Herzig’s friend Kelly Johansen joined in as well, buying a matching suit. The duo started attending Vikings games together, and they would only scalp first-row seats. Before long, it became evident: the bargain Halloween costumes would no longer do the job. So Herzig and Johansen upgraded their look, buying fitted Italian suits and quality hats.
The two have been Vikings season ticket holders for five years, and Herzig said they finally got their first-row seats for life. When the new stadium is built, the Purple Pimps will be right where they belong: front and center.
“I can’t wait for the new stadium,” Herzig exclaimed. “We will be on the Vikings’ side, 40-yard line, first row. The Metrodome was fun while it lasted, and I had great memories [there]. But it was was just too old [and needed to go]. I’m loving TCF Stadium also—outdoor football is the best!”
Herzig doesn’t just stay in Minnesota, though. He and Johnasen make an effort to attend every game, both home and away. The Purple Pimps have sat first row in 25 different stadiums, including last season’s London game, an experience Herzig described as “amazing.” Eventually, they plan to hit all 32 NFL stadiums.
Of the countless Vikings games the friends have attended, it’s tough to narrow down a single favorite memory. However, Herzig does have a favorite season:
“The 2009 season [was one of the best]. We went to all 18 games and every single one was awesome to be at. Brett Favre was so much fun to watch, and our team was special that year.”
He went on to say that 1998 also immediately stands out—mostly great memories of the 15-1 season, but as all Vikings fans know all too well, one terrible moment with Gary Anderson’s missed field goal to keep Minnesota out of the Super Bowl.
The Purple Pimps have been through plenty of ups and downs with the Vikings, and the 2014 season was no different. Herzig weighed in on the year:
“Adrian Peterson is the most exciting player in the NFL […] him being suspended was hands-down a game changer, and that destroyed our season. With AP in the mix, we would have made the playoffs.”
However, Herzig feels satisfied with the way the season ended up, all things considered. Injuries across the board hurt the team as well, but a silver lining for the fan was rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and his promising career start.
“I loved seeing Teddy start to develop as our future quarterback. The biggest success [of the season] was watching Bridgewater sit in the pocket and not run around and get hit; he looks confident and poised. He will be a great player, and I think he will win us a Super Bowl.”
Herzig is already looking forward to next fall and all the new memories and adventures that the 2015 season will bring. Next time you’re at a Vikings game, or even watching from your TV, be sure to spot the Purple Pimps in all their glory…
Trust me. They’ll be there.
Play-by-Play With Jon
Pets: Two English Bulldogs that sometimes join in on the tail-gating fun
Hobbies: Riding his Harley and traveling—most recently, Thailand and Bora Bora
Confession: “I work two jobs to pay for my Vikings addiction.”