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Showing the love: Sale of T-shirts supports NLS football program, where Vikings player Zylstra got his start

SPICER -- As a New London-Spicer School graduate, Michelle Olson said she wanted to do something to show community support for Brandon Zylstra -- another NLS graduate who recently made it to the NFL and his dream job playing with the Minnesota Vi...

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Carolyn Lange / Tribune Although she's a Green Bay Packers fan, Chasity Ommodt is also a fan of New London-Spicer graduate and new Vikings player Brandon Zylstra. She wears a Zylstra T-shirt that will benefit NLS football boosters. The graphic on the front declares “New London-Spicer Minnesota fan club,” and Zylstra’s name and number are on the back.

SPICER - As a New London-Spicer School graduate, Michelle Olson said she wanted to do something to show community support for Brandon Zylstra - another NLS graduate who recently made it to the NFL and his dream job playing with the Minnesota Vikings.

Olson, who owns Johnny O'Neil's restaurant and bar in Spicer, ordered 300 purple T-shirts with Zylstra's name and number on the back and a graphic on the front declaring "New London-Spicer Minnesota fan club."

"They were gone in one day," Olson said.

She then put a notice on the business' Facebook page saying she would order more shirts if people let her know.

Within a couple days she had orders for about 900 more.

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"Well, obviously there's a demand," said Olson, with a laugh.

"Our community is just superexcited and behind this great athlete, and we're proud to have him on the team and coming from New London-Spicer," she said.

Besides showing pride in the community's new football celebrity, profits from the sale of the $15 T-shirts will go back to the program that helped Zlystra get his start.

After getting the thumbs-up from NLS football coach Dan Essler, Olson said she and her husband, Jon, launched the plan to give $7 from each T-shirt back to the school's football booster club.

"That'll be a very nice boost for the booster club," Essler said, adding that the money will be used to purchase protective equipment, such as helmets and shoulder pads for the NLS football team.

Essler praised the Olsons for being "great supporters for NLS for many years" and for helping the team into the future.

Essler said having a local kid on the Vikings football team has been inspirational for the NLS coaches and team.

"We're really excited to have somebody in the NFL," said Essler, who has been in contact with Zylstra since he was named to the Vikings roster. "It shows that if you work really hard you can achieve your dreams."

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With almost 1,200 T-shirts sold, Olson wonders how many people are left in the community that still don't have one.

Essler said he bought two. "One to wear and one for a keepsake," he said.

While taking orders and finding a way to distribute 1,200 T-shirts has kept her busy, Olson said if the demand continues, she will "figure out a way" to make sure people who want to show their support for Zylstra and the NLS football booster club will get a T-shirt.

"We're doing it because we love the community," Olson said. "We like to give back. It's something we can do."

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Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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