Meet the New Practice Squad
During offseason workouts in 2016, the Pittsburgh Steelers experimented with mobile tackling dummies.
"It's an awesome piece of football technology," said head coach Mike Tomlin. "I am always interested in ways to utilize technology in terms of teaching football. We are excited to get a close look at it."
The Genesis of an Idea
The Mobile Virtual Player, also known as the MVP, was an idea driven by Dartmouth Head Football Coach Buddy Teevens and developed by students at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering.
"When I came up with the idea," Teevens said, "my staff thought I was nuts."
"The idea was to reduce injury in the game," he said. "How can we maximize football skills without injury? It's the way the game has got to go."
The MVP is the first ever self-righting mobile training device. Controlled remotely and powered by a motor, it's an innovative training partner that can move at the speed of one's opponent.
With its size—which has been specifically engineered to replicate the weight and height of a college or pro player—the MVP can take a hit.
By simulating human motion, the MVP allows players to practice tackling, blocking, pursuing, evading and throwing at a mobile target, without the impact and fatigue associated with athlete-on-athlete training.
As Coach Teevens describes, "It's a dummy that actually moves—a wide receiver, it's a running back, it's an offensive tackle, it's a defensive lineman."
"It's faster than we think, faster than it looks," said Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt. "It's a good visual effect of how a running back or receiver catches the ball on the sidelines to give us a pursuit and open us up and give us an angle to the ball."
The Future of MVP
In addition to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the MVP technology has already been tested by Baltimore Ravens, Michigan State University, University of Minnesota, Central Michigan University, University of New Hampshire, Western Michigan University, Harvard University, St. Thomas Aquinas High School (FL), and Davenport University.
The MVP was also tested by premier Rugby teams, including USA Rugby's Seven's Olympic Teams (Men's and Women's).