Students made fun of a boy's homemade football shirt — but now it's official merchandise

Jarrett Guarantano of Tennessee Volunteers throws a pass against Georgia State Panthers during the first quarter of the season opener at Neyland Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Silas Walker | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

When an elementary student brought a homemade football shirt to school for college colors day, his classmates made fun of him — even causing him to cry.

But in an extraordinary sequence of events, copies of the makeshift shirt have now been made by his favored team — the Tennessee Volunteers —and more than 16,000 have already been sold on its campus store website VolShop.

Laura Snyder, a fourth grade teacher at a Florida school, posted details of how her students took part in a day where they were allowed wear their team's colors to school. In Florida, there's fierce competition between the Miami Hurricanes, the Florida Gators and the Florida State Seminoles football teams.

But one boy (who Snyder has not named), is a supporter of the University of Tennessee Volunteers and said he did not own his team's shirt. Snyder suggested he make one, and the next day he came in with a hand-drawn "U.T." sign attached to an orange shirt.

Snyder, who is a teacher at Altamonte Elementary School in Altamonte Springs, Florida, wrote on Facebook September 4: "He was SO EXCITED to show me his shirt. I was impressed that he took it one step further to make his own label."

But events went sour, Snyder added. "After lunch, he came back to my room, put his head on his desk and was crying. Some girls at the lunch table next to his (who didn't even participate in college colors day) had made fun of his sign that he had attached to his shirt. He was DEVASTATED," she wrote.

Snyder's post went viral, and several Tennessee college departments sent the boy and his class some merchandise. The University of Tennessee's Interim President Randy Boyd tweeted: "I was touched to learn of a young Florida school student's heart for the University of Tennessee, and I LOVED his imagination behind designing his own shirt. So many of us admire his love for UT and it's awesome to see everyone step up to send him some UT gear!"

But that wasn't all. On September 6, the VolShop store had a surprise: they had made a version of the boy's shirt, donating a portion of proceeds to nonprofit Stomp Out Bullying. By Sunday, VolShop's website had crashed but by Tuesday, the site was running again. More than 16,000 shirts have now been ordered, according to a tweet by university Chancellor Donde Plowman.

Snyder posted on Facebook on Monday: "THANK YOU so much so all who have made this such a positive experience for my student, and also showing the rest of my class what it's like to come together and be kind."