Tech-smart robotic tackling dummies the future of football training

Local Sports

DAPHNE, Ala. (WKRG) — Robotic tackling dummies could be coming to a school near you. The new high-tech piece of football equipment is starting to show up at a few football fields along the coast, and it’s a good bet you’ll be seeing a lot more in the future.

“Whoever come up with something like this, and I mean, to see it in live-action, I was like, ‘Wow! I can definitely do some things with this bag.”

When Former Vanderbilt and Daphe defensive back Torren McGaster coaches players at Trione Park in Daphne, he’s using the newest football technology to get to teach his players how to tackle properly and cut down on injuries.

“From the years I played, we had bags that didn’t have wheels,” McGaster said. “You hit the bag out of place and you’ve got to put it back where you want it, not overworking yourself. Now, you’ve got a remote control that all you’ve got to do is wind it back.”

The technology was developed at Dartmouth College’s engineering school, at the request of the football coach.

“The head football coach, Buddy Teevan, was called there to win an Ivy League Championship — he couldn’t keep his best players on the field. He literally one day drug in a dummy just like this to the engineering department, drug it in and said, ‘Can you make this thing move on its own?'” said Mark Bankford with Destination Athlete.

With a remote control in hand, away it goes — and it’s fast, tough, and can turn on a dime.

“It’s a typical tackling dummy that can move, cut, run, stand up after getting hit, stand up after getting hit and come back and do it all over again,” Bankford said.

“They are fascinated with it — it’s something they love. They like, ‘Coach, can we get the bag every day,” McGaster said.

Gulf Shores High School is the latest local football program to purchase two robotic dummies. Daphne High School also has a couple.

“For the last 3 or 4 weeks we’ve been traveling the area showing the coaches and head coaches at school programs, I’m telling you, within the first 10 seconds their phone comes out and they start videotaping it,” Bankford said.

Less contact, fewer injuries and a robot that doesn’t complain — and it’s tough as a linebacker and as fast as a receiver.

“Lay the bag out — you ain’t hurting the bag. The bag going to get up and keep on rolling,” McGaster said.

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