I started coaching rugby in 2008 and I designed the Hawk Tackle Dummy and Hawk Tackle Hit Pad out of pure frustration. After nearly ten years of trying to teach ex-football players how and where to safely place their heads in a tackle my frustration boiled over. I spent my weekends in my garage cutting and shaping the Hawk Tackle Dummy and Hawk Tackle Hit Pad. I set out to build a tackling dummy that incorporates the head safe tackling technique used by rugby players for over a hundred years. I engineered a tackle dummy designed to teach and reinforce tacklers on proper foot, shoulder, and head placement for a safe and effective tackle.
My passion comes from experience. I suffered two concussions while playing middle linebacker in high school. I went to an inner-city college without a football team and picked up rugby. During my first season of rugby I suffered another concussion. I thought my athletic career was over. I had a decision to make. I loved the physicality, exercise, and camaraderie of team contact sports but how I was feeling in my head made me want to quit.
Upon recovery, I felt I was too young to quit contact sports. I made the decision to dramatically change how I played the game. My issue: I was tackling in rugby like I was taught as a football player. I was taught to stick my facemask right between the numbers on the ballcarriers’ chest. I was taught that leaving my feet was okay. I was told contact to the head was okay – that’s why you wear a helmet.
Rugby forced me to learn how to safely place my head in a tackle. I am happy to say, after adopting the rugby style tackling technique, I was able to play concussion free for nearly twenty years. The rugby style tackling technique teaches players to use their feet and legs as leverage, use the shoulder as the primary point of contact, and to safely place the head off to the side.
Team contact sports teaches us so much about life. Teamwork and camaraderie. Pushing our limits. How to win. And, how to lose. Proper tackling technique so the head is placed safe in a tackle is imperative to the ongoing evolution of tackle sports.