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North Laurel's League Outfitters puts best foot forward

Ian Thomas was named the new St. Vincent Pallotti High football coach after the 2014 season and for the past few months he has been preparing for his first year at the helm.

"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," he said.

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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.

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"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, who played at DeMatha Catholic High in Hyattsville and at the University of Illinois.

But League Outfitters doesn't just sell football equipment to local high school programs.

The business has also donated equipment, such as football cleats, to players in need on teams at Pallotti, Laurel High and Atholton High, in Howard County.

"It is not always a perfect situation when parents send their kids to a private school," said Thomas. "They sacrifice a whole lot and may not have 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."

Edward Cummings, the head coach and defensive coordinator at Atholton High, echoed those sentiments. He 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, and his team has benefited from the donations.

Chad Bollweg, 44, the president and CEO of League Outfitters, said the giveaway program began last year with Anacostia High in Washington, D.C., but has really taken off this summer. His father, Chuck, a Fulton resident, is a co-owner of the company.

A co-owner of the company is his father, Chuck, a Fulton resident.

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

"There is a lot bigger demand than we realized," added Bollweg. , who played basketball at St. John's College High in Washington. "We want to extend the olive branch to the coaches. This is the first year we have gone full throttle" with donations.

Bollweg said needs goes 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."

Bollweg declined to detail how much the project costs, but said, "We buy in bulk. We are strong enough financially that we can do this."

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He said League Outfitters is a multimillion-dollar company with at least 40 employees. He estimated that he had at least 12,000 pairs of cleats in stock.

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

Bollweg also runs Sports International, which puts on youth football camps with players from several NFL teams, including the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens.

Derek Chappelle, now an assistant coach with the varsity team at Laurel High, heard about League Outfitters when he was a football coach and later 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 varsity players with the Spartans.

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

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