Jordan Ricks has been playing football since he was 5. He suffered his first injury at 12 when he broke his left femur, the longest and strongest bone in the human body. Because the femur is so strong, it usually takes a lot of force to break it, and recovery is often difficult, lasting four to six months. Jordan’s right femur grew to compensate for his injury, causing a height imbalance. “I’m 6’2 on my right leg and 6’1 on my left,” he jokes.
Jordan used his childhood football experience as the catalyst for a business idea. He recently launched a business that analyzes movements of football players to yield biofeedback on how to train effectively and safely.
Jordan is one of several student entrepreneurs located in the UAB Innovation Lab (iLab), a creative incubator for student entrepreneurial success. His business, Mixed Reality Football, incorporates video games with bio-analytics that diagnose weaknesses in players and provides coaches the valuable understanding of how their players use their bodies – and how to train them accordingly.
Oftentimes football players suffer lifelong injuries and overwork their bodies to compensate for their weaknesses. Jordan is not a special case. He, like many others, has been a part of a system that praises strength over mobility. In football, if you can’t perform, you’re out – at the expense of your body.
In 2014, Jordan suffered an injury that ended his season as a defensive back for UAB. Though UAB Football was disbanded briefly, it was reinstated in 2015, and Jordan anticipates playing again for the team in 2017.
In the meantime, he’s working on creating a prototype of his software that projects virtual reality on the football field: players can interact with a projected game while learning game plans and proper techniques to reduce injury.
Although the company is still in its infancy, Mixed Reality Football has sparked interest from several professional league football players.
“The connections I’ve made from developing this have been absolutely crazy,” Jordan says.
He plans on developing the software to show at the American Football Coaches Association annual convention in January 2017, a mandatory conference for all high school and college football coaches.
The prototype will be a 3D-printed suit based on Microsoft’s cutting-edge HoloLens, which players can wear to analyze body dynamics while projecting virtual reality. He’s in process of securing the funds to produce the model.
Jordan plans to use the capital from his software to one day open a sports facility that focuses on proper techniques and rehabilitation for players and to incorporate his software into the training methodology at the facility.
He wants to prepare athletes not only for the field, but also for life with applicable, engaging coaching that extends beyond a game plan.
The UAB iLab was instrumental in preparing Jordan to tackle the financial side of his business, he says. Through the lab he connected with UAB iLab Director Kathleen Hamrick, who used her network to connect him to key investors and decision makers.
Jordan says he suffered from depression when he was injured, but he used his passion for gaming and sports to pull himself through it and create a business that helps others. Having a sense of purpose has helped him to recover both physically and mentally, and he’s excited for his future.
Jordan says that if he can get up, brush himself off and create a business, anyone can if they believe in themselves.
“Anyone can make it happen,” he says.