XTECH shoul­der­ing its way into locker rooms on all lev­els

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - WEEK 10 - By Barry Wilner

EAST HANOVER, N.J. — At 43, Bay­lor coach Matt Rhule is far re­moved from a play­ing ca­reer. That doesn’t mean he won’t run the gaunt­let with his guys to prove a point.

When Rhule was help­ing turn around the pro­gram at Tem­ple, he al­ready had many of his play­ers out­fit­ted with XTECH shoul­der pads, a rev­o­lu­tion­ary pro­tec­tive de­vice that is gain­ing trac­tion on all lev­els of foot­ball.

“I even wore the XTECH pads and went through bull-in-ther­ing while I was at Tem­ple,” he re­calls, “and I can tell you that the next day I felt less sore than I should have felt.”

That’s the re­frain from many a player, in­clud­ing NFL stars such as Khalil Mack, Matt Ryan, Odell Beck­ham Jr., and An­drew Luck — who missed an en­tire sea­son be­cause of shoul­der is­sues.

“I had a unique his­tory af­ter be­ing at the New York Giants where sev­eral play­ers wore the XTECH pads ,” says Rhule, who left Tem­ple for Bay­lor in 2016. “Then Muham­mad Wilk­er­son, who played for me at Tem­ple, was a pro­po­nent of the pads. I had a chance to see them work first­hand. When we went to Tem­ple, we put them on sev­eral guys, and they all had pos­i­tive re­views. Shoul­der in­juries went down. Upon coming to Bay­lor, we had a chance to im­ple­ment the same thing. We’ve watched our oc­cur­rence of in­juries and post­sea­son surg­eries come down sub­se­quently.

“The pads have been shown to work at a high level, and we have had tremen­dous per­sonal suc­cess with them. The vast ma­jor­ity of our play­ers have en­joyed the pads and ap­pre­ci­ated the com­mit­ment to their health and wel­fare. I’ve even had other coaches reach out to me over the years to ask about them.”

That seems to be the re­ac­tion from high schools — famed Mater Dei in Santa Ana, Cal­i­for­nia, orig­i­nally bought three sets and now the en­tire team is wear­ing XTECH — to col­lege, where com­pany co-founder Bob Brod­er­ick says close to 500 schools across all lev­els have play­ers suit­ing up in the pads, with vir­tu­ally the en­tire Washington State ros­ter us­ing them.

Dozens of play­ers at the likes of Michi­gan, Penn State, Syra­cuse, Mis­sis­sippi and Notre Dame use the pads.

As for the pros — the NFL does not sur­vey shoul­der pads as it does hel­mets — Pa­tri­ots run­ning back James White, in the midst of the finest sea­son of his five-year ca­reer, says: “I like that the pads are light and give me a lot of range to move my arms. But at the same time, they give me all the pro­tec­tion my shoul­ders need. I’ve al­ways given thought to my shoul­der pads be­cause as a per­son who runs and catches the foot­ball, I feel like you should have the right pads to help you get your job done.”

XTECH has been on the job for six years, though the work staff is small: 11 full-timers, seven part­timers. That could be in­creased as Brod­er­ick and co-founder Ted Mon­ica break into the Eu­ro­pean mar­ket; there are dis­tri­bu­tion deals in place for Jan­uary to ex­pand in Ger­many, Switzer­land and the UK. Also next year, XTECH will make avail­able its first five-padded gir­dle; most states re­quire all high school foot­ball play­ers to wear a fivepadded gir­dle.

Their Cover-2 Pro­gram works with NFL teams, cur­rent and for­mer coaches and play­ers to buy pads and do­nate them back to their high schools. Zach Ertz, Melvin Gor­don and the McCourty broth­ers have done so, and the Giants do­nated equip­ment to the New York Po­lice Depart­ment’s foot­ball squad.

Mon­ica has worked in the foot­ball equip­ment world for nearly 38 years. He cus­tom de­signs ev­ery pad, which Brod­er­ick says are the only pads made en­tirely in the United States.

What makes those pads stand out?

The patented de­sign fea­tures the only dual-can­tilever sys­tem on the mar­ket, an ad­justable three-piece body sys­tem that al­lows each pad to fit the player’s body at the proper an­gle while cre­at­ing a nat­u­ral chan­nel for the AC joint to sit in. On the per­for­mance side, a three­p­oint swivel sys­tem al­lows for en­hanced range of mo­tion, and air flow oc­curs into the front and back to work in con­junc­tion with uni­forms, al­low­ing for max­i­mum ven­ti­la­tion.

Ad­di­tion­ally, XTECH uses XRD Tech­nol­ogy, which is well known in the mil­i­tary space and is the foam XTECH uses in the en­tire pad. XRD, a divi­sion of Rogers Cor­po­ra­tion, has a mul­ti­year exclusive part­ner­ship with XTECH for Amer­i­can foot­ball. Mon­ica calls it “smart foam,” which is water re­sis­tant as well as highly pro­tec­tive and durable.

The ma­jor­ity of the shoul­der pad in­dus­try uses foam from China and an “air man­age­ment” sys­tem which was de­vel­oped in the 1970s. Think of a pil­low and ev­ery time you hit it air goes out the side, and it com­presses down and is there­fore less pro­tec­tive for the sub­se­quent hit.

Ac­cord­ing to many of the play­ers us­ing XTech’s pads, that’s never been a con­cern.

Re­cent com­pany ad­di­tion Brooks Barnard is the vice pres­i­dent of sales and left Un­der Ar­mour af­ter 12 years over­see­ing its high school prop­er­ties to join XTECH. He was at­tracted by XTech’s im­ple­ment­ing “an idea that was dis­rup­tive and chal­lenged a pre­dictable way of think­ing.”

“As I spent time in locker rooms across the coun­try, I no­ticed the XTECH brand grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity with elite ath­letes as their choice of pads to wear on Fri­day nights,” he says. “The de­sign of XTECH nat­u­rally cap­tures your at­ten­tion and au­to­mat­i­cally en­gages any foot­ball mind. It was ev­i­dent that XTECH was sought by top play­ers at the NFL and NCAA level and a groundswell was hap­pen­ing at the high school level. Sev­eral of the na­tion­ally ranked pro­grams in the coun­try al­ready had play­ers in XTECH and I wit­nessed first-hand what top re­cruits were say­ing about the pad.”

If any­one needs a re­li­able shoul­der pad, nat­u­rally it is Luck. The first over­all se­lec­tion in the 2012 draft and the Colts’ fran­chise QB since then never suited up in 2017. He’s back now and hav­ing a strong sea­son de­spite a gen­eral dearth of tal­ent around him.

Luck is in­trigued by tech­nol­ogy, but his rea­sons for switch­ing to XTECH ap­pear sim­pler.

“Just a lit­tle lighter,” Luck says. “Been wear­ing the same shoul­der pads and thought I’d try a new one out. It didn’t come from a place that I need some­thing dif­fer­ent, I need more pro­tec­tion. It was just some new tech­nol­ogy that our equip­ment man­agers came to me about and it’s worked well so far.”


Bay­lor head coach Matt Rhule speaks dur­ing Big 12 me­dia days in July in Frisco, Texas.

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