Although he hasn’t called Minnesota a permanent home since he was five years old, Matt Engstrom lives and breathes the Vikings.
Engstrom was born in Minnesota, and he immediately fell in love with the purple and gold. He remembers spending time with his father and grandmother, watching the games on television or listening to them on the radio. Engstrom was a child of the Purple People Eaters era, and a framed poster of the 1974 team hung in the family’s basement near the pool table—one of his earliest memories.
By the time Engstrom moved to California with his mom, his allegiance to the Vikings had already formed. It is a long-standing devotion; Engstrom bleeds purple into most areas of his life, including his career.
In addition to his love for the Vikings, Engstrom is passionate about art, drawing, and humor. He pursued a profession that would perfectly fit these three things and has been in the animation industry for almost 20 years. In what some might consider a dream job, he currently works as a Supervising Director for DreamWorks Animation Studio.
“My job, simply put, is to take a script and visually tell the story in the clearest, most humorous way [possible],” he explained. “To make sure the viewer is feeling exactly what the moment calls for. My job is very similar to what a live action movie director’s job would be like—except I don’t deal with ‘live’ actors, I deal with artists that draw our ‘actors.’”
Engstrom’s job mainly consists of setting up scenes to effectively communicate the mood of the moment—whether that be dramatic, scary, tense, or funny—and acting out and drawing the characters’ actions.
If you’re wondering if Engstrom has personally worked on any animated movies or television that you’ve enjoyed, the answer is probably “yes.” Some of the animator’s more well-known work includes King of the Hill, The Cleveland Show, and—most recently—the fun-loving Penguins of Madagascar. Engstrom said that Penguins, the spin-off of the original Madagascar films, was his absolute favorite project to work on and included numerous fun characters to draw.
“Also, Hank Hill was fun to work with,” he added. “Which, now that I think of it… there are lots of hidden Vikings tributes that I subtly stuck in the backgrounds [and behind the scenes].”
Interestingly enough, Enstrom’s work translates very well to his allegiance to the Vikings. He said the following:
“I find that I love to do illustrations about the Vikings because each season is like a living script—complete with joy, sorrow and drama [both of which we get plenty of] as a Vikings fan […]. I may not be able to eloquently verbalize my deep-seeded hatred for the Packers, but I can draw a picture of a Viking smashing some cheese, and hopefully it resonates with people!”
Engstrom may not mind living away from the freezing winters of Minnesota, but his mind is always on the place—and team—he calls home. The animator looks back on the 2014 Vikings season as one that included some unexpected obstacles and heartache but also offered fans a lot to be excited about. Despite not seeing the Vikes in the postseason, Engstrom says he watched the final game feeling encouraged and hopeful.
“It seems like the team has made some substantial strides, despite the enormous issues that surrounded the squad this season. I’m so impressed with how Mike Zimmer and his staff were able to keep the team from imploding.”
He echoed probably many fans in expressing that Cordarrelle Patterson proved the most disappointing player this season, especially after showing so much potential his rookie year. Rather than focus on the negatives, though, Engstrom identifies as a true Minnesota fan and focuses on the upside: largely, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
“I loved watching [Bridgewater] progress over the season. And I feel very confident that he can be that guy…” He trails off. “Hopefully.”
The Minnesota Vikings are so much more than a football team to Engstrom. They represent a much larger area of his life. He often exchanges phone calls with his father and brother during games, and the connection with his 90-year-old grandmother, “the biggest fan of us all,” is something he will always cherish. Many of Engstrom’s fondest memories surround his favorite team: introducing his daughters to the Vikings and showing them countless Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson highlights. Or his son deciding he wanted a Marcus Sherels jersey after watching the cornerback’s infamous punt return against the Lions.
At the end of the day, Engstrom sums it up well: “My favorite thing about the Vikings is it’s a family thing.”
Play-by-Play With Matt
Family: Two teenage daughters, a 10-year old son, and a girlfriend who is a Seahawks fan (but don’t get him started on that)
Hobbies: Drawing, surfing, waterskiing, camping, watching movies… and antagonizing his kids
Jerseys in the Closet: Two. Engstrom currently owns a Peterson and a Christian Ponder jersey. Next on the wish list? Bridgewater or Harrison Smith.