Norman entrepreneur to pitch football safety device on investor show

·3 min read

Sep. 18—Norman resident Kevin Swanson looks ahead to next week, when he will travel to Florida to give his product pitch for football safety equipment to investors on a Roku business reality show.

Kevin Swanson's son Dustin was horse collar tackled in 2004, resulting in multiple bone fractures. The term describes a football maneuver where a defender reaches and grabs the inside collar of a shoulder pad in an effort to bring down a ball carrier.

He'll pitch the product on Roku's Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch, which allows selected entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their idea to board members as they take a 60-second elevator ride up to a boardroom. If interest is shown, entrepreneurs get to try to secure a deal in the boardroom.

The horse collar tackle became infamous following the 2004 NFL season, when injuries to Terrell Owens, Donovan McNabb, Musa Smith and Tyrone Calico were thought to be caused by it. The NFL banned the tackle in May 2005.

While the ban hasn't eradicated the tackle from the sport, Swanson hopes to do just that with the invention of the X Collar, the first and only anti-horse collar tackling device.

The pad works by attaching to the back of the shoulder pad and protrudes out from the collar of the jersey. If a defender reaches behind a ball carrier to tackle them and grabs the horse collar area, the X Collar would become dislodged, preventing the tackle.

Swanson and his son created the prototype for a freshman year science fair project in 2009.

"When something happens to you like that, you pay attention — so I've watched it for years, even after they banned it in the pros," Swanson said. "We decided to come up with a way to stop it."

The National Federation of State High School Associations ruled the X Collar legal following approval by an equipment subcommittee of the association in 2012. It was the first piece of equipment allowed in 50 years.

With a prototype developed and a commercial endorsement from Roy Williams — a former University of Oklahoma football star and NFL pro bowler who became infamously known for the horse collar tackle — Swanson took the project from the science fair to Shark Tank and a pilot of another show with NFL investors. Swanson won the pilot of the NFL investors' show, but when it didn't get picked up for a premier season, the offers didn't go through.

The pandemic and life events put X Collar on hold, but when the opportunity to try out for season 8 of Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch came last month, Swanson said he couldn't pass it up.

Swanson said while some startups try to go around collecting money without practical backing behind their idea or product, X Collar has years of intent behind it.

'It was just a hobby sitting in the trunk of the car, and we were trying to protect kids locally. Now we're just wanting to go national and see what we can do," Swanson said.

Swanson will travel to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to the pitch X Collar on camera on Sept. 20. An air date of the show hasn't been announced.

Dustin said getting an offer from investors would mean a great deal to them — not only because of their persistence to take X Collar mainstream, but also to ensure football players don't have to experience injury due to horse-collar tackles like he did.

"I feel like the prospect of it getting picked up this time is probably looking a lot better than our previous attempts at it," Dustin said. "We can kind of tell when people seem interested and we're kind of getting a feeling again. It's definitely really exciting."

Jeff Elkins covers business, living and community stories for The Transcript. Reach him at or at @JeffElkins12 on Twitter.