There are two minutes left on the clock at the Metrodome. Tommy Kramer drops back, surveys the field, and desperately tries to find an open receiver. He spots Hassan Jones streaking down the sideline and heaves a pass down the field. It’s caught! Touchdown, the Minnesota Vikings win the game!
Only, it’s not Kramer throwing the football or Jones sprinting into the end zone. This story isn’t unfolding in the Metrodome, where thousands of Vikings fans cheer in excited anticipation. No, this is the Troftgruben backyard in Adams, North Dakota, where young Darin is creating his own memories. He’s the quarterback and the receiver in this boyhood-dream-come true; the hero at the center of an improbable Vikings comeback.
Fast forward 30 years, and “Gruben” as he’s affectionately called by friends, is thriving in the middle of a very real, very personal comeback. Like many Vikings fans, he has experienced loss, and disappointment in his life. He’s been to more than 150 games, witnessed countless defeats, and seen firsthand the pain of a victory slipping through the cracks. Through them all, he’s donned his horns, his beard, and most importantly, his mask; symbols of his unwavering support for the purple and gold.
But the costume only reveals so much about Gruben. Behind the armor is more than just a fan; behind the mask is a loving husband, a dedicated friend, and an inspiring individual.