On October 24, 2002, I tackled running back Lendale White in a high school football game and it was perhaps the highlight of my athletic career. He dragged me nine yards and nearly put me into a coma, but he eventually went to the ground after a 20-some yard gain on a sweep toss right. I, playing cornerback on the left side, was credited a solo tackle, and it's one that I’ll remember and be haunted by for the rest of my life.
But one thing that’s always stuck with me from that play was how displaced my gear and helmet had become in the aftermath. Perhaps it was the future All-American and later NFL running back’s force plowing through me, but I can’t help but wonder if we weren’t as well-equipped as we should have been. My shoulder pads were essentially lifted over my head and thrown off my body. They were loose, bulky, and didn’t properly fit my 5’10’’, 160-pound frame; they were better-suited for a linebacker, but it was all our school was able to issue. If only I had waited 12 years to suit up.
This month, Russell Athletic has come out with its first-ever shoulder pad design, a CarbonTek technology that limits impacts to the body up to 63 percent in a 600-pound impact test (or, say, about 2.5 Lendale Whites). The new design will be worn by about a dozen NFL players this upcoming season, including former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram of the New Orleans Saints.
“We can utilize Russell Athletic’s roots in football and dedication to quality and innovation to create what we believe is a product with superior impact management, a lower profile and a better fit for players,” said Russell’s VP general manager, Robby Davis.
A technology that limits impacts to the body up to 63 percent in a 600-pound impact test
Indeed, it is a better fit. The shoulder pads fit beautifully around my chest and shoulders, snug but not restricting, allowing for total range of motion. No, I didn’t test it by tackling the National Gatorade Player of the Year, but I can tell, just walking around the office, reaching for items on shelves and running (walking) the stairs—five flights!—that the shoulder pad game is nothing I ever experienced in high school.
Some other highlights:
-100% Aerospace grade carbon fiber, which, according to Russell, is a ten percent reduction in weight versus its competitors
Lendale, if you’re reading this, I want to thank you for the fond memory. And for the likely CTE I’ll later develop as a result.
Ryan Hatch is the deputy editor for Supercompressor. He’s having trouble coming up with anything witty here. Probably the CET. CTE? Who knows.