“I didn’t want to be a football player. I wanted to be an architect,” Springs admits. “I loved seeing things being built and developed.”
He would have the chance to pursue his interest in building and developing in years to come, but while in college, his renown as a football player continued to grow.
At Ohio State, Springs would be named the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year, earn All-American honors, and follow his father’s legacy into the NFL.
Springs was chosen by the Seattle Seahawks as the third pick overall in the 1997 NFL draft. To this day, no cornerback has ever been picked higher in the draft.
When Springs moved to Seattle to play for the late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seahawks, he found a new mentor who influenced how he would see the world differently.
He was exposed to the technology boom of the late 1990’s in Seattle when small startups like Amazon and Starbucks were blossoming into the giants they are today. Soaking in this culture of innovation, Springs was inspired to become an entrepreneur and build something meaningful after his football career.
Connecting the dots from baby car seats to football helmets and beyond
A pivotal moment for Springs came soon after his retirement from the NFL. While in New England playing for the Patriots, he had become friends with Ken Duffy, who worked for the Dorel Juvenile Group, a manufacturer of children’s products.
Duffy had gifted Springs a Safety 1st infant car seat made with a new technology designed to better protect a child’s head from impacts. Springs was curious about the technology, and in early 2011 he asked Duffy how it worked.
Duffy gave Springs one of the pads from a car seat to experiment with, and he brought it home and set up a test on his breakfast table, smashing one of his football helmets into the padding to see how it responded. The wheels started turning in Springs’s head.
“I made the link right then and there,” he says. “Football is a series of car crashes
… this padding technology is used to protect my kid.” He began to wonder if the technology could be adapted for football helmets.
Windpact revolutionizes the sports, military, and automotive industries
Springs started Windpact (U.S. trademark reg. no. 5,281,738) in 2011, with a mission “to be the most advanced impact protection company in the world, to make everyday lives safer.”
Focused on finding a solution to mitigate the effects of collisions, Springs and Windpact built a core team of engineers, designers and world-class scientists all dedicated to the science of impact, and how materials dissipate energy to improve impact protection.
He wanted to better understand why innovation in helmet technology had been minimal since the time his father played football.
Windpact is very close to unlocking this optimal solution for football helmet safety with their award from the NFL head health challenge.
A paradigm shift in product development
During this journey, many other applications have been discovered using their proprietary Crash Cloud technology, materials database, and finite element modeling, or FEA modeling, capabilities.
Windpact is currently solving impact problems with products ranging from the U.S. Army ECH (Enhanced Combat Helmet), automotive headrest & headliner solutions, as well as helmet solutions in all team and individual sports including baseball, cycling, skiing, cricket, football, and hockey.
“We talk about it often in sports—the importance of being a role model, how you affect your community, doing the right thing,” Springs says. “That’s why I’m so excited to [show] that it doesn’t matter the color of your skin, your background, what you’ve done before. If you have a wonderful, beautiful idea that you can share with the rest of the world—maybe get it patented—to make the world a better place, that’s what’s important. And when you think about sports … how cool would it be to be a role model and an inventor to where kids could say, ‘You know what? I can do both.’”
Springs is applying his winning mindset and purpose-driven approach to building a meaningful company he once dreamed about in Seattle; it’s now a reality and it’s called Windpact.
Excerpts shared from the USPTO article, The coolest award I have, February 2020