Any football player – or fan, for that matter – knows the critical importance of hanging on to the pigskin. Turnovers on the gridiron – not dissimilar to mistakes in life – make the difference between winning and losing.
For a football player, a fumble can mean the loss of possession and the game. And, for NFL players, losing the ball could mean a demotion -- or worse.
Reducing fumbles is the goal of a new football training tool called HIGHandTIGHT. Known to many in the NFL as the “beeping football,” HIGHandTIGHT is a solution developed by Division II Northwood University assistant coach Tom Creguer. Using pressure sensors placed under each panel of the football, the training tool provides instant audible feedback when carried properly.
When a player catches the ball, and tucks the ball away with proper grip the ball “beeps.” If it continues to beep, the player is carrying the ball with constant pressure, creating muscle memory and awareness of ball location.
“HIGHandTIGHT is a perfect example of what our ecosystem was created to support and a demonstration of technology serving as a game-changer for many industries,” said Fred Molnar, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at Michigan Economic Development Corporation and director of Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center (MLSIC).
After developing HIGHandTIGHT, Creguer thought he had a clear vision and understood the process to bringing his innovative product to market. After connecting with the Central Michigan University Research Corporation (CMURC), a nonprofit business accelerator and business incubator, he learned how far he still had to go.
Funded by the MEDC and located in the heart of the Mt. Pleasant, SmartZone and CMURC provides the resources and mentorship to help turn an idea into a business. Walking Creguer through each step and developing a timeline, the team helped the coach secure a product patent, receive starter funds and determine the best approach to reach the customer base for the product.
“I was a lean start-up and I’d used all my savings toward creating this solution,” said Creguer. “The football training equipment market is beyond an $80 million industry I am trying to enter and I thought I had a great vision, but I was mistaken. CMURC showed me what an entrepreneur needs to do and how to do it.”
Since launching the product, the company has 20 percent of the NFL’s teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts. Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh raved about the potential positive impact of training tool.
Top NCAA programs at Michigan State University, Notre Dame, the University of Oregon, Texas A&M University and the University of Tennessee are also using HIGHandTIGHT.
“As coaches we are always analyzing and trying to find an edge or area we can improve,” Creguer said. “During a product study in the 2015 season, Northwood used the balls during practice each day and by the end of the season their running back stats showed a decrease in fumbles by 64 percent. We have the data to show that the product is doing exactly what it is designed to do – reduce fumbles.”