Based on his football experiences, and those of players he mentored, Matt decided to help change the game through proper training equipment and came up with the Fumble Pro. Matt partnered with James Smith, an aerospace engineer, to take his idea from the back of a napkin to the practice field.
My name is James Smith and I am an aerospace engineer with NASA. My good friend and business partner Matthew Hall played fullback at the United States Naval Academy from 2004 to 2006, graduating in 2007. I'd like tell you the story of how the two of us now own our own company selling a football training tool called the Fumble Pro. It isn’t a story of entrepreneurship as much as it is one of redemption.
Matt started at fullback for the Naval Academy his senior season. He had a very good yards-per-carry average, and fit well into their system. But he had one little problem… he tended to fumble the ball too much. Matt told me that his last carry in college was a fumble. He dropped the ball, and when he got to the sidelines the coach benched him and he never touched a football in a game again. His very last carry as a player was a fumble in a bowl game his senior season. And the guy that replaced him? He went on to make several different squads in the NFL. So Matt’s dream of playing in the NFL literally slipped away like the football on his last carry.
After graduating from the Naval Academy Matt served 5 years in the Navy. During this time he took up coaching running backs at Merritt Island High School in Merritt Island, Florida. As a coach he focused on ball security relentlessly. He was determined to teach his kids better fundamentals so they would not have to suffer the same fate he did. He would chase the kids through agility drills punching at the ball, wearing himself out and constantly bruising or cutting his hands trying to knock the ball out of the kids’ hands. He knew there had to be a better way.
Well, it was during this time in Matt’s life when he and I met. We became good friends almost instantly. One night, we were out enjoying a cold adult beverage when I mentioned having a patent for a mechanism I designed that is currently on the Mars Curiosity Rover. So he told me about an idea he'd had in his head for several years. He wanted a tool that would allow him to teach football players the proper way to hold the ball to maximize ball security. He envisioned a football with a rope coming out of the point of the ball that had a handle on one end. This way, the coach could stand away from the player and still rip the ball out. This would be so much easier on the coach, and far more effective then current techniques.
We finished our drinks, and like most crazy ideas, we figured that was the end of it. Except the idea lingered in my head for months. One day I decided I was going to see what I could come up with. At first I was just going to use a regular handle like a mini water-ski handle when I had a “eureka” moment. What if the handle had a sliding weight like a dent puller? Would I be able to transmit the impact force of a sliding weight to the ball? Would it feel like a real impact on the ball like a helmet or a defensive player punching the ball?
Excited by this break through, I immediately went out and bought all the stuff I needed to make a prototype. All the while, Matt had no idea I was working on this in my garage. After several attempts and a lot of research on how to re-lace a football I created my first “Frankenstein” version. I called Matt and told him to stop by after work, not really telling him what to expect. When he got there I gave him the ball, had him face away from me, and slapped the weight on the handle down to make the impact force. I will never forget the look on his face when he turned around and said, “THAT’S IT! THAT’S PERFECT!”
Right then we knew we had a great idea, and the Fumble Pro was born. We immediately incorporated Innocept, LLC, patented the Fumble Pro and began the long journey of becoming small business owners.
The Fumble Pro is now being used in the NFL, the NCAA, high schools, and Pop Warner leagues throughout the country (and even in Canada and the UK). Matt is finally getting his redemption and turning a fumbling issue into a great opportunity to teach players at every level the right way to carry the football.
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