NDSU o-lineman, father take on a new adventure

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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) -- During this pandemic, many businesses have taken a hit as they've been forced to close their doors and change their approach.

NDSU offensive lineman Zach Willis and his dad found themselves in a much different place though. Instead launching a new business, Big Deck Barbecue.

One week in and things are heating up awfully quick in Fargo.

"We thought we were going to sell maybe five bottles of each to some of our friends," Zach Willis said of his new venture with his dad. "But we're well over 150 orders in the first two days."

Zach has found more than workouts to keep him busy during the pandemic. Partnering with his dad to sell his homemade hot sauces.

"I'm kind of just handling the social media right now," Zach, a marketing major at NDSU said. "He's the man behind the sauce and the company and I'm just glad I could help him promote it."

Tyson Willis spent years cooking for his two boys and claims it was nothing special. He listed brats, cereal, and ramen as the main three food groups for the young family. But when his wife Heidi entered the picture, he says things really started cooking.

"She started making me eat weird things like mushrooms and asparagus and my taste buds sort of grew from there," Tyson said with a laugh. "I just kind of expanded things. I would go places and I would have other people's food and I'm like well this is good but how can I do this a little better."

When it came to hot sauces, Tyson said he was just disappointed they never tasted like what the bottle advertised.

"It's really what sets us apart and I think when we get this first shipment out and people taste it, it's going to spread like wildfire because there's nothing else like it," Zach explained.

Currently, Big Deck Barbecue, an ode to a project Tyson undertook on an old family home, is selling four hot sauces, three barbecue sauces, and mustard on their website. The site says they are 'committed to delivering high quality, unique sauces made with the best products possible.'

Things have moved quickly for the Willis men and Big Deck Barbecue. A conversation last Saturday led to the launch of a couple of social media pages, then a website and some sales.

Now a week later, they are nearing 200 bottles sold with a whole new batch on the market.

"As far as the speed that everything has gone. I can't wrap my head around it," Tyson laughed.

His entire life, Zach says he's been supported and motivated and encouraged by his dad to chase his dreams, and now, after all these years, Zach is returning the favor for his father.

"That's so humbling to me," Tyson said. "When he was growing up I just tried to do my job and my job was to be the best father to him that I could possibly be and push him to be the best person he could be. Before anything else."

"Just to be able to help him, kind of push his dream out instead of the other way around for the first time is a really cool experience to be a part of," Zach added.

A link to the Big Deck Barbecue website can be found on the right-hand side of this story.