Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- He’s always been known as the fun loving, gentle mascot of Syracuse University, but we’re now getting a look at a tougher side to Otto the Orange.
The new design is the brainchild of two veterans just back from Afghanistan. Their take on the popular mascot is now showing up on T-shirts licensed by the school.
Veterans Jason Uhlig and his best friend Brian Kennedy were simply trying to turn their base in a desolate part of Afghanistan into something that felt a little more like home, so they started decorating it with a Syracuse motif.
“We had some pastels that we brought with us, some paint, then we used concrete bunker walls that surrounded us for our protection as a palette,” Uhlig told NewsChannel 9.
It started there, but Uhlig says they both knew this could develop into something much more.
"We got off the plane, we were home a week, we had this idea of starting our own graphic design business,” Uhlig said.
Jason and his friend came up with a design they call “Military Otto” and what they've done is put him on a t-shirt. You can buy the t-shirts in the SU Bookstore already, but starting Wednesday night you'll be able to buy the shirts at the Carrier Dome, too.
“Basically the things we wear everyday when we're deployed, put onto Otto to make him a little tougher, that's where the inspiration came for that,” Uhlig continued.
Uhlig, who like many veterans, came back from Afghanistan with no job and almost no business experience. In just four months Iron Art was formed and Military Otto was ready for sale.
“[At] Iron Art, we kind of think of ourselves as pioneering for a good cause for raising awareness and for veterans and I guess I would just send a message out to our other veterans that are in our shoes, trying to start their own business, definitely reach out, you're not alone,” Uhlig said.
Uhlig says they’re trying to change the picture of veterans returning from the battlefields and just what they can do once they're home.
Uhlig says they already have several other SU designs they’d like to turn into shirts or other products. The proceeds from Military Otto t-shirts benefit the work of the SU’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families. You can buy one for $20 at the Carrier Dome, the SU Bookstore or online