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North Laurel's League Outfitters puts best foot forward

Chad Bollweg is used to moving in some impressive circles in the world of football.

He is the president and CEO of League Outfitters and Sports International, both in North Laurel, and the latter company puts on youth football camps around the country, working with such NFL teams as the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins.

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"We have the largest football camp business in the nation," Bollweg said

The former prep hoops player at St. John's College High in Washington, D.C., hasn't hesitated to give back at the local level through League Outfitters.

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Bollweg, 44, of West Friendship, said the giveaway program began last year with Anacostia High in Washington, D.C.

This summer League Outfitters has gone a step further, donating equipment to several local high school teams, including Atholton High in Columbia and St. Vincent Pallotti High and Laurel High, in Laurel.

"We have kids at the youth level or the high school who can't afford cleats," Bollweg said. "We are giving them brand new shoes in a box with no catch.

"There is a lot bigger demand than we realized," Bollweg said. "We want to extend the olive branch to the coaches. This is the first year we have gone full throttle" with donations.

According to Bollweg, needs go beyond stereotypes of schools in certain jurisdictions. He said it is rewarding to hand over a new pair of cleats, some worth around $120, that are the exact size of a player for the position he plays, be it a big lineman or a lithe quarterback.

"It is really cool to see that transpire. No obligation, no questions asked," Bollweg said. "Just to see these kids light up … they think there is a catch to it."

Edward Cummings, the head coach and defensive coordinator at Atholton High, noted that Howard County is one of the most affluent in the state but there are still some student-athletes who may have the need for some football equipment, such as shoes. . Cummings is a former coach at Centennial High and still teaches there.

At Pallotti, which draws students and football players from Howard County, Ian Thomas is ready to begin his first year as the head coach at the private school. He played at DeMatha Catholic High in Hyattsville and at the University of Illinois before getting a tryout with the Redskins after college.

"There is a lot to do. You have to make sure that everything is in order, on and off the field and behind the scenes," Thomas said.

Those duties are extensive, including a plan for summer workouts, scheduling opponents for the 2015 season and dealing with parents.

Thomas also has to buy equipment for the Panthers, and because of those duties he learned about League Outfitters, based on Route 1 in North Laurel.

"I had heard about them from people in the area and how they had some merchandise and it was a good place to buy," said Thomas.

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Bollweg and Thomas both said there are needy student-athletes in many types of schools.

"It is not always a perfect situation when parents send their kids to a private school," said Thomas. "They sacrifice a whole lot and that may not leave a whole lot after the tuition is paid. There are guys in our school that still do not have that much. They deserve to reap the benefits."

Bollweg said that League Outfitters can afford to donate equipment because the company is financially strong. He estimates that he has at least 12,000 pairs of cleats in stock.

"It is just the right thing to do," he said of the donations. "We want to be part of the community. It is our way of giving back."

Derek Chappelle, now an assistant coach with the varsity team at Laurel High, heard about League Outfitters when he was a football coach and a commissioner with the Laurel Boys and Girls Club.

"When I was at the Wildcats they helped us get brand new helmets," said Chappelle, who played high school football on Staten Island in New York. "They gave us very competitive prices. We raised money at the time."

Chappelle said League Outfitters sold the Laurel Boys and Girls program 110 helmets the first year and then 35 the next year.

Now Chappelle has been a link between League Outfitters and the Laurel High team, which began practice Aug. 12 and opens the season Sept. 4 at Largo High. Chappelle said League Outfitters plans to donate seven or eight pair of cleats to Spartan varsity players.

"They are providing our offensive line with [free] cleats," Chappelle said.

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