Pioneers become first D3 program in Ohio to wear only Riddell's SpeedFlex helmet

Marietta football players trying on helmets

As Marietta College’s football players gathered on the third floor at Don Drumm Stadium, you could hear the “oohhs” and “aahhs” as they got their first glimpse of the new football helmets.

“These are pretty sweet,” said senior running back Roger Walker, who rushed for 1,292 yards last season. “Everyone loves to get new equipment, but these helmets are something else. They signify that we are moving forward as a football team.”

Marietta College’s football program has adopted Riddell’s five-star-rated SpeedFlex helmet, which is equipped with the InSite Impact Response System — the latest in head impact monitoring technology.

Marietta is the only NCAA Division III program in Ohio to provide this helmet to every player on the roster. Division I programs like Ohio State and Texas are also using these helmets.

“Our players have been working hard to help us get to the next level, and the coaching staff is excited that we can provide the Riddell SpeedFlex helmet to every player on the roster,” said Marietta coach Andy Waddle. “This also shows our commitment to player safety, which is increasingly becoming more important for the student-athletes and their parents.”

The College was able to purchase 125 new helmets — that are equipped with a set of sensors that record the contacts and hits taken by players during practice and games in terms of G-Forces, location, direction and severity — thanks to a $50,000 anonymous donation.

The players were fitted with helmets on Friday, along with getting the rest of their equipment for the season. Marietta opens on the road in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, in a non-conference game with Geneva College at 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 2. The Pioneers begin Ohio Athletic Conference action at Don Drumm Stadium against nationally ranked Mount Union at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 16.

“We started a conversation after last season about what it would take to get the SpeedFlex helmets, because the safety of our student-athletes is always our top priority,” said Larry Hiser, Director of Athletics. “We are extremely thankful to the donor who made this happen. He’s got a passion for safety in all of his business ventures and he’s generously sharing that passion with us.”

Inside each helmet is a set of sensors that track hits taken by each player. The sensors gather information on G-forces and the direction of each hit. On the sideline, athletic trainers are then able to instantly track that information using handheld monitors. If an impact is deemed to be strong enough, an alert goes to the monitors notifying the training staff.

“I’ve had four concussions playing football, and I am confident these helmets will be able to identify much sooner if I have taken a serious hit to the head,” said senior offensive lineman Eric Canterbury. “The helmets are also nice looking. I’ve only seen these types of helmets on Division I players on TV. This says a lot about the direction of Marietta football.”