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The art of Otto

Professional artist and Syracuse sports fan Michael Borkowski has applied his own original look to the school's popular mascot.

Michael Borkowski fell in love with Syracuse sports from the stands in the newly constructed Carrier Dome. The Syracuse native watched firsthand as Dick MacPherson rebuilt the football program and Jim Boeheim coached the basketball team to national prominence in the early '80s.

Only one thing confused Borkowski: the lack of an official mascot. Syracuse University hadn't yet adopted Otto the Orange, and was in the middle of a mix-and-match dark period of mascots that confused the young SU fan.

Photo: Illustration by Michael Borkowski
Before last fall's football game against the South Florida Bulls, Borkowski created this Otto graphic, "The Running Of The Oranges."

So when Borkowski became a storyboard artist and illustrator, he made sure to glorify Otto in comic book fashion.

"He's a hero around here," Borkowski said of his mascot muse. "You can't go anywhere without seeing Otto there."

Lately, Borkowski's Otto-based art has been just as ubiquitous. The artist's Otto drawings have routinely been featured on and on the SU Athletics website. They depict a comic book-styled Otto beating up on other Big East mascots or leading the team into games.

"Adding a comic book style was a natural fit," said Borkowski, who also creates storyboards for Warner Brothers, Marvel Comics and Random House Children's Books.

But it was Borkowski's sketches of SU sports that earned him similar jobs with the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets and Miami Heat. About three years ago, Borkowski was discovered by Syracuse sports blog, Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.

Since then, Borkowski said fans have craved more and more Otto drawings, and recently, Otto merchandise.

"It's very surreal," Borkowski said. "Seeing a fellow SU fan wearing my art on a shirt or holding a poster of mine is a pretty amazing feeling. It really means a lot to me to get their feedback and to see that they are enjoying what I am putting out there."

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