John Tolley, July 17, 2017
The secret to catching the perfect spiral pass comes from a combination of factors. Just ask any receiver and they'll tell you about how the angle of the sun, the direction of the wind and proper positioning of the hand(s) can make or break a play.
And now, players young and old, from Pop Warner to the Pros, are getting a sticky boost from an unlikely source: crabs.
Partnering with researchers at his alma mater, former Terps and Baltimore Ravens tight end Matt Furstenburg launched Grip Boost, a line of crab-derived polymer gels that boost the gripping ability of football receivers' gloves.
During his college career at the University of Maryland, Furstenburg noticed that while his gloves had a grip-enhancing coating, that coating would be nearly spent by a game's fourth quarter. It wasn't such a problem for Furstenberg playing in football's upper echelons where equipment is gratis. But for kids just starting out, a properly gripping glove can be a big, but pricey, advantage.
Serendipitously, UMD chemical engineering Ph.D. students Chanda Arya and Kevin Diehn were working in the Complex Fluids and Nanomaterials Laboratory at the University of Maryland's Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering conducting research on a polymer made from the shells of crabs. According to Grip Boost's website, the polymer has previously been used to make "blood-clotting bandages, foams and surgical sprays."
"It just so happened it would work naturally as this nice tacky polymer," Arya said, speaking with Sports Illustrated in 2016. "It was something we had been researching in our lab and a perfect starting point. It comes from nature, is super safe to use and is readily available."
Market research was conducted with the help of Maryland football players, with the Grip Boost team running through 25 variations of the quick-drying, after-market gel before landing on the right one.
Grip Boost, with Furstenburg as CEO, launched in 2014 getting help along the way from Maryland's Office of Technology Commercializing, a campus business development incubator. The company has since grown by leaps and bounds, selling over 30,000 two ounce bottles of gel in 2016. They're also expanding into other sports, offering a gel specially designed for baseball batting gloves and for golfers.
Furstenberg says that inspiration was easy to find at Maryland, a campus known for entrepreneurial innovation.
"I followed [UnderArmour CEO and UMD alum] Kevin Plank all throughout college and looked up to him as an entrepreneur," Furstenburg said to SB Nation's Testudo Times. "He found the common problem of a T-shirt. I found a common problem. I don't know if this is the same class as Under Armour, but I kind of found the niche market that we're in."