The Mobile Virtual Players that were tested by the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers are beginning to trickle down to more grassroots teams. In an effort to limit head trauma during practices, these MVPs are replacing physical players.
Each MVP stands at 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs just over 180 pounds. Built to resemble the average football player, these are currently the only motorized, self-righting, mobile tackling dummy. They travel up to 18 mph, or about 40 yards in five seconds.
Originally, mobile tackling dummies were being tested with professional football players like the Steelers. Now that the MVP is available for purchase, smaller teams like Holy Name High are able to take advantage of it.
According to the Telegram, Holy Name’s roster had shrunk from 40 players to just 28. Injuries had decommissioned the rest of the team. After seeing the Mobile Virtual Player in action, coach Jim Romeo was convinced that the $8,000 price tag was worth the safety of his players.
“I think it’s a wonderful addition to your team,” said Romeo. “It gives you the ability to hit without beating one another up. It has a realistic feel to it. It moves really well. Kids can’t just run up and hit it like a dry bag. It really gives them open-field pursuit angles.”
Thanks to a couple of tires and some casters, the padded dummy can make sharp turns to resemble an actual player. Practicing with a moving object is a lot more beneficial than tackling a stationary one.
Back in 2010, Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens banned live tackling during practices. Football players were injuring themselves too often outside of the games. The MVP began development after Teevens encouraged a few players that were engineering students to create one. In August 2015, Dartmouth debuted the MVP.
Since then, this mobile tackling dummy has been adopted by professionals like the Steelers, Ravens, Cowboys, and more. Other colleges like Notre Dame and West Virginia have also made use of them. However, Mobile Virtual Player feels that they make the most impact with high school football teams.
“One of the things we want to cut out, especially at the high school level, is having these guys banging their heads against one another, “said CEO John Currier. “We know that’s not good in the long term. At this age, their brains are fully developed.”
With concussions being a big issue in football these days, new tech like the Mobile Virtual Player gives players a safer way to play the game they love.