By Ali Lucia

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Cheerleaders have been a part of the NFL since the early 60s.

The first team to have “cheerleaders” was the Pittsburgh Steelers. Fresh off the Pirates winning the World Series, the Steelers were having a tough time selling tickets.

So, the Steelerettes were formed in 1961.That’s when 16 women were recruited to help cheer on the team.

Soon other NFL teams decided it seemed like a good idea. Now, cheerleaders for most NFL teams are a big part of the organization and the entertainment at games, as well as community outreach throughout the year.

A Minnesota business owner has been helping these women look good for a very long time.

Deb Erickson founded The Line Up. The base of her business comes from NFL custom dance wear. She started the company while working as a vocational counselor. Twenty-five years later, this Eden Prairie based company is still kicking out new uniforms every football season.

Take a short walk past the sewing machines in this Eden Prairie based company and you can tell football season is back.

“I would say we do over half of the [NFL] teams in some capacity or another,” Erickson said.

Her NFL portfolio includes: Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets, Washington Redskins and so many others.

Now the CEO, Erickson started making workout wear for friends at her neighborhood gym in the late 80s.

“I actually started exercising and went to jazzercise,” Erickson said.

At that time her jazzercise instructor was the head coach of the Vikings cheerleaders, and just like that she landed her first NFL client.

“Lots of purple and yellow, and then started making high school dance costumes,” she said.

First it was just practice wear for the purple.

“We’ve done something for them since ’92,” she said.

After a couple of “double turns” these dance costumes aren’t just on NFL sidelines, but can be seen on NBA courts, at center ice and even at Christmas.

Erickson’s Eden Prairie warehouse now employs 50. The mother of two was never a dancer, just a designer and didn’t mind showing off the Vikings vault of costumes.

It’s the NFL Signature dance wear that has been her stable and has kept the business alive.

“This is from the 35th year anniversary,” she said. “This is really mid-90s NFL fashion with the puffy sleeves and the full skirt.”

Her latest challenge was tackling the frozen tundra for all those games at TCF Bank Stadium.

“This is the jacket. It’s well lined. It took us months to figure out how to make, but now we have that down. So they’re wearing this as soon as the weather gets really cold,” the designer said.

Erickson said beading the jacket is easy; making sure it’s equipped for winter weather is the biggest challenge to tackle.

The Line Up is celebrating 25 years of business just in time for kick-off.

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