It all began innocently enough for Doug English, as the former football player was simply spending another day of retirement on his ranch rolling hay bales when a thought went through his head.
The former All-American defensive tackle at the University of Texas who played professionally for the Detroit Lions was sweating profusely after mere minutes, and the light bulb which went off made him think of how some of the lessons he learned on the field were being put into play with his daily work.
It was the beginning of what turned into what is known as PowerDrive, and the rest is history, as Elysian Fields and several high schools across the state are using the newly-invented equipment as well as UT and the University of Michigan. Word is spreading of its success, particularly when it comes to linemen, and English wanted to give back to the game he loves most after starting three successful companies.
“I thought I owed it to young athletes and coaches to provide a tool like this, and I spent some time working on prototypes with the University of Texas and Austin Westlake High School,” English said. “I started showing it around the state, and people started buying into it in more ways than one.”
PowerDrive is different than its predecessors the tractor tire and the blocking sled in how it’s filled with hundreds of pounds of sand which create resistance when it’s pushed. It teaches all athletes the importance of competing with a low center of gravity and forces them to use the proper technique.
“Coaches everywhere sometimes have a hard time teaching their young athletes to stay low, and it’s uncomfortable for the kids,” English said. “This equipment provides a self-correcting mechanism, and those who use it do so until they’re comfortable with it, and it strengthens and creates good habits.”
English talked about three key terms when it came to using the PowerDrive and the benefits it gives.
CONDITIONING: Full-speed contact drills have been decreasing through the years due to rules by the UIL, NCAA and other athletic governing bodies. English looks back at mornings when he and his fellow linemen would get up and run almost 1 ½ hours before practice later in the day. He remembers many game days where he would be gassed on a 10-to-12 play drive due to the contact and the overall different preparation.
English gave three short examples of using the PowerDrive such as pushing for five yards and sprinting for 20 to simulate a sweep, pushing it five yards and sprinting ahead 10 to simulate the pass and pushing it five yards and stopping to simulate a dive. He compares it to full-body impact at the point of attack.
It all goes back to flipping the tractor tires either as a personal workout or a form of punishment or using the blocking sled, as the PowerDrive doesn’t attract mosquitoes, scorpions, snakes and other pests a tire would, nor does it rust and have as many potential cases of injury to players or coaches as the sled.
“When you’re throwing a tractor tire around, it has you bending at your waist with your thumbs pointing out which is a bad place to be,” English said. “This can make you learn how to adapt on the field and get some exercise and conditioning when it comes down to working with your lower hemisphere.”
TECHNIQUE: English pointed out how one-third to one-half of a player’s preparation is done with incorrect technique whether done intentionally or not. He affectionately terms the PowerDrive’s benefits as getting the proper mechanics ingrained into one’s subconscious from the first snap until the game’s final whistle.
“I often hear coaches asking kids why they aren’t doing what they’re taught, and they can prove it on film,” English said. “A coach’s responsibility is to implant good technique into their athletes, and one of the most efficient ways to do so is through using proper technique and turning it into muscle memory.”
English also compares it to a kid removing the training wheels and learning how to ride a bicycle.
“It’s a self-correcting technique once the parent gives their kid the little shove, and the concept is the same with PowerDrive when it comes to forcing your body to improve from a technique standpoint. You get stronger the more you do it, and it teaches proper technique the same way a kid gets balanced. I’ve had coaches tell me after using PowerDrive for just a few days how it’s been a wonderful teaching tool when it comes to their players learning it quickly and working with an overall lower center of gravity.”
STRENGTH: Any athlete involved in resistance movement – from a basketball player to a high school wrestler can benefit, as when properly weighted, they can develop strength and work on proper positioning.
PowerDrive also encourages good body lean, hip roll, and push-and-lift technique from full-arm extensions. The athlete can’t cheat and must be more determined when tired, or it simply won’t move.
Bags of sand come into play with approximately 350 to 400 pounds suggested at the high school level to around 500 at the collegiate level or above. The particles lock together and ride to the front of the equipment as it rolls to where it’s constantly pushing against the user as if it was the opponent.
The PowerDrive will not roll if too much sand is poured into the ballast tanks and will not work effectively with too little sand, but coaches can use the equipment to grade their linemen’s performance when it comes to proper hand and footwork while also using it for courses and other timed drills.
“It’s neat to see when someone pushes the PowerDrive a little, and it starts pushing back at them,” English said. “It forces them to get lower and allows them to use strength from their hands, feet and shoulders for a beneficial workout. It’s the first piece of equipment I’ve seen which helps self correct.”
NEW AGE TECHNOLOGY: English is a firm believer in his product, so much so he made the 300-mile trek to Elysian Fields last week to watch players such as lineman Zack Holcomb put the Yellowjackets’ PowerDrive to use. The 2011 College Football Hall of Fame inductee and member of the Lions’ “Silver Rush” defense of the late 1970s and early 1980s didn’t have such equipment but thoroughly enjoyed seeing his product put to good use.
“The kids were just great when it came to looking me in the eyes, listening, trying hard and basically caring,” English said. “They wanted to keep going, and the neat thing about it was you could see which linemen took to it immediately and ones who struggled initially but improved with proper technique.”
The PowerDrive is currently in its second full summer of official use, with both Texas Class 5A state champions Allen and Katy having one of their own. Overall and out-of-state sales are increasing, as a Dayton High School recently made a purchase, as well as Dallas area schools from the McKinney area.
“Numbers are going up every quarter, and I did a business plan a couple of years ago before I ever pulled the lever on this thing and knew I’d have to educate the public in the beginning,” English said.
English has always been his own boss since his playing days with the Lions ended, and this was his way to not only get back into the game in a sense but give back to it with an impact he never imagined.
“It’s great to get back into the locker rooms, talk with the coaches and work with the players,” English said. “Coaches taught me these same techniques, and it’s enjoyable for me to pass them along as well.”