Using technology to make college football better, faster, safer

In a small meeting room on Nikes campus in early July, with the simmering field turf to their backs, college footballs top quarterback recruits received an introduction to the next phase in sports training.

The introduction came via former Ohio State quarterback Joe Germaine, the director of system operations for Axon Sports, an Arizona-based performance company with roots in neuroscience – the study of the brain and nervous system – and an emphasis on cognitive training.

In a dimmed room – which might explain why one quarterback, Ryan Brand, thought he was walking into an eye test – Germaine unveiled technology shared and used by only a select few colleges and professional sports organizations: A tool to help players make better decisions on the field, and make those decisions faster.

There were no footballs involved, no passes and no pads; it was simply a computer program, one embedded within the framework of a playbook, and it took members of the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp by surprise.

At the most basic level, Axons program takes an existing playbook – in this case, the plays given to the camps quarterbacks – and layers it onto a wide range of defensive alignments, forcing users to digest and dissect formations and schemes in the seconds or split-seconds before the snap.

More specifically, the program values speed equally to accuracy: Axon places heavy stress on the decision-making process, giving less and less time as you move through the system – often just the time from the break of a huddle until a quarterback reaches the line of scrimmage – to make the proper call.

And perhaps most important, in a time when the NCAA and college conferences are strengthening limits on physical contact in practice, Axons training boards preserve the body while sharpening the brain.

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