It looks like a batting cage crossed with an arcade and it could be the future of football practice. It’s called QBSIM and inside the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, the Sports VTS team is setting up their revolution.
“It has a real life-like quality as a former quarterback you’re still going through your pre snap read like you would in a game,” Craig Ochs says.
Craig is the Director of College Development for Sports VTS. He’s also a former College and NFL quarterback. He’s talking to me while wearing a virtual reality headset tethered to a computer. It’s all very futuristic, but grounded at the same time.
“The key is the fact that you’re throwing a real football,” Craig says as he runs a play and completes a pass to his virtual receivers.
“It’s called the QB sim or QB simulator and what it does is in a virtual world puts the quarterback in a game like situation.”
The set up is high-tech but simple. There’s a real football resting on top of a cone. A big screen TV displays what Craig is seeing in his headset. The TV has protected glass in case the football hits it. Hollywood quality motion capture cameras are set up all around to translate the motion and ball speed. You pick a play and run it just like you would in a game.
“These guys never get tired you can come in here and you can throw routes all day to receivers that are giving you game-like realistic looks,” Craig says as he continues to demo the QBSIM.
Craig and the team at Sports VTS have already put former NFL quarterbacks like Jeff Garcia and Jake Plummer through demonstrations. The goal is for high school, college and NFL coaches to train quarterbacks without ever taking a hit.
“All the uncontrollable factors at practice… guys rolling into your quarterback and of course the occasional hit to the head. Those are out,” Craig says.
Chip Kelly and the UCLA football program is the first high profile client for the QBSIM, but they have a much bigger vision than that.
“We want every college program in the country to have one because we think there’s value to it. Our initial goal…we would love to get a program from each conference,” Craig says.
The same way film study and year round 7-on-7 camps have helped the quarterback position, Craig believes the QBSIM can take the position even further.
“There’s a rep scarcity issue, especially for backups. That’s in NFL, College, High School, you name it. So this is a way for a coach to use a system like this, get their back up reps even though the starter might be getting most of the reps in practice,” Craig says.
After watching Craig do the demo, he let me suit up. I played some quarterback in high school, I was more than ready to take a journey back in time.
My first rep was pretty jarring. It certainly felt real. At one point Craig said go ahead and let them sack you. Even when I knew it was coming I still flinched.
“You’ll see fans go through it and they have a lot of fun. You’ll see the reactions are positive, but we want to focus on training on a high level,” Craig says during our interview.
Finally I complete a pass. I could live in this virtual world all day.
“It’s a blast, it’s a total blast,” Craig says.
I have to say I agree. I’ve seen the future of football and it’s pass first.