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Mobile Virtual Player
 
Published Wednesday, January 11, 2017
by Matthew J. Mowry

Dartmouth College Football Coach Buddy Teevens raised eyebrows in 2010 when he declared that there would no longer be tackling during practices in an attempt to reduce injuries.

He proved his naysayers wrong with an improved record, a 50 percent drop in missed tackles and an Ivy League Championship. And now he has football teams across the country calling him about his new technology, called Mobile Virtual Player (MVP), that is disrupting the way teams practice tackling.

Teevens teamed up with John Currier, a research engineer in biomedical engineering at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, and engineering students who were also football and rugby players to develop the new practice dummy. With funding from the Dartmouth community, Teevens and Currier formed MVP LLC, with Teevens as chairman and Currier as CEO.

The first time the device was field tested, at Dartmouth’s opening day of football practice on Aug. 26, 2015, MVP posted a 49 second clip on social media. “We were shocked—200,000 people had seen the video in two hours. By the end of the week, it had a million views,” Currier says.

Currier says tackling dummies had been the same since the 1930s—padded and stationary.  

Mobile Virtual Player is the first self-righting mobile training dummy powered by a motor and controlled remotely by a coach, scout or another player. The 190-pound MVP can travel up to 19 miles per hour and stop and swerve on a dime.

It wasn’t long before Teeven was invited to appear on the Colbert Show.  After tackling the MVP, Colbert called it “huggably plush.” When players hit it, they are hitting padding, not another player with a helmet, thus reducing head injuries, which have become a hot button issue in football.

MVP has 25 units in the field being tested by a variety of teams including the Baltimore Ravens and St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Florida. Notre Dame and seven NFL teams, including the Pittsburg Steelers, bought units. “[Notre Dame] ordered two and within hours called up and said we want two more,” Currier says.

So far the company has raised $1.5 million in funding to launch the product. The MVP units retail for $8,000.  A more extensive commercial launch is planned for the first quarter of 2017, when MVP will officially be introduced at the American Football Coaches Association Conference in January. MVP has partnered with Rogers Athletic Company to license the technology, manufacture the units and sell them.

Currier would like to develop products that could be used all the way down to the Pop Warner level and eventually find a way to produce metrics, such as how hard the MVP is being hit and what can be learned from the receiving end of a tackle.

MVP is looking at developing similar products for other sports. “We want to be the place people go to bring innovation to training in sports at all levels,” Currier says. “There’s an opportunity to demonstrate things can be done smartly and more safely.”


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