Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., is the only college focused completely on students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Founded in 1864, the University is an inclusive campus that has many sports teams.
In 1883, the school formed its first football team, and to help the players understand the play calls, the team would get into a tight circle that was called a “huddle,” creating a standard that continues today for all players.
Since 2007, Gallaudet has played NCAA Division III football in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference.
To handle play calling, Coach Chuck Goldstein uses a series of hand signals and game cards but is not able to get his players’ attention if he needs to change things up.
In stepped AT&T, who partnered with the University to create the world’s first football helmet with a heads-up eyepiece.
The coach picks the play using a tablet on the sideline and the play is sent via a 5G connection to junior quarterback Brandon Washington’s helmet, where it is projected on a clear lens in front of his eyes.
The system also allows the coach to get his quarterback’s attention with a button that flashes a red light on the screen.
It took a bit of back and forth to get the device right, but working with Washington and the team staff, AT&T was able to deliver a helmet that was ready for gameplay.
The NCAA approved the use of the helmet for one game only and Washington wore it in an October game against Hilbert University, which Gallaudet won 34-20.
Collegiate quarterbacks are currently not able to use in-helmet radios like the NFL, but the NCAA is considering adding this feature for the Bowl games in 2024.
That decision might very well also help push the AT&T helmet to be allowed permanently for the players at Gallaudet.