He's fast.

He's durable.

He's built to pop up after a hard hit.

And he never says a word.

Meet MVP Drive, the remote-controlled, self-righting tackling dummy that is the newest member of the Ocean City High School football team.

He doesn't have a name yet – most players just call him "Dummy" – but he's made a major impact for the Red Raiders in his first season as a practice partner.

"I've never seen anything like it before," senior linebacker Travis Stoerrle said.

Ocean City football players pose with their new practice partner, the MVP (Mobile Virtual Player) Drive.
Vernon Ogrodnek
Ocean City football players pose with their new practice partner, the MVP (Mobile Virtual Player) Drive.

Ocean City is the only high school in South Jersey or Southeastern Pennsylvania with the MVP (Mobile Virtual Player) Drive, which is produced by the Rogers Athletic Company of Farwell, Mich. According to the company, many NFL and college teams – such as the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints as well as Penn State, Michigan, and Texas – use the tackling dummy, which is marketed as the "only motorized training device that replicates the size, weight, and agility of an athlete."

Ocean City coach Kevin Smith can verify the tackling dummy's measurable qualities.

"It's 195 pounds, and it can go 20 mph," Smith said. "Once it gets going, it's faster than anybody on our team."

During a recent practice on Ocean City's field, just steps from the seaside resort's  boardwalk, the MVP Drive was a big part of the Red Raiders' special-teams and tackling drills.

In coverage simulations, the Red Raiders lined up in punt formation, executed the snap and kick, and raced downfield and tackled the MVP Drive, which was operating as the return man, sans the football (since it doesn't have arms).

Ocean City defensive coordinator Sean Matthews at the controls of the MVP Drive.
Vernon Ogrodnek
Ocean City defensive coordinator Sean Matthews at the controls of the MVP Drive.

Ocean City defensive coordinator Sean Matthews was the man with the remote control, sending the MVP Drive into the teeth of the coverage team or angling to the sideline or changing direction on the fly.

"It's like a remote-control car," Matthews said. "It takes me back to my childhood."

Later in practice, Matthews operated the MVP Drive again as the Red Raiders worked on tackling technique. In the drill, a player would bounce off a blocking shield held by a teammate, then take the moving dummy to the ground.

"It comes at you fast, and it can cut and move," senior linebacker Bill Kroeger said. "It's really interesting and a lot of fun."

The players were surprised when school officials unveiled the MVP Drive at a practice just before Labor Day. Athletic director Vince Leavey was at the controls as the dummy made its debut, emerging from the school, motoring down the track, and joining the Red Raiders huddle.

"We all thought it was sick," Kroeger said. "We saw it on social media but to have our own. It's really cool."

Ocean City head coach Kevin Smith says the MVP Drive is both a valuable teaching tool and an important resource in improving player safety.
Vernon Ogrodnek
Ocean City head coach Kevin Smith says the MVP Drive is both a valuable teaching tool and an important resource in improving player safety.

The MVP Drive is more than just a novelty, according to Smith.

For one thing, it's a valuable teaching tool.

"We get to do drills, full-speed, live, that we wouldn't get to do with a player simple because of the danger of the collisions," said Smith, whose team is 3-1 and will return to action after a bye week with an Oct. 12 game at Triton. "That thing really moves, so we can work on our angles. We get to work on our open-field tackling, which is really valuable to us.

"You have to be in great football position to tackle that thing. Nobody wants to get run over by the dummy, put it that way. Good form, good technique, aggressive. It teaches all the same things you're going to do live in a game."

And in a time of heightened awareness of the importance of increased safety measures in the sport, the MVP Drive is the ideal practice accessory, according to Smith and Ocean City school officials.

That's what caught the attention of Ocean City's superintendent, Kathleen Taylor, as she was riding an exercise bike at the gym in the spring.

"I was watching on TV and I saw how many colleges were using it and I was like, 'Whoa,' " Taylor said. "It just made sense in terms of reducing the wear and tear on the athletes.

"I thought, 'Gee, why can't we have that?' "

Taylor texted Smith, who had seen a video demonstration of the device at a clinic in Atlantic City.

The MVP Drive weighs 195 pounds, can reach speeds of 20 mph, and is built to pop back up after taking a hard hit.
Vernon Ogrodnek
The MVP Drive weighs 195 pounds, can reach speeds of 20 mph, and is built to pop back up after taking a hard hit.

"From a player-safety standpoint, it's been tremendously beneficial," Smith said. "That's the No. 1 thing. But the other thing is how it enables us to replicate things that we just couldn't do otherwise. You just can't go live on special teams. There's too much danger with the collisions."

The MVP Drive can take the collisions. The device, which costs around $8,000, took hit after hit during practice, bouncing back every time like a giant, padded Weeble.

It's built like a linebacker, around 5-foot-7 and nearly 200 pounds. It's designed to go all day, or at least until the battery runs down.

And it can motor.

"I think the kids thought it was going to be goofy, and then they saw it move," Smith said. "So very, very quickly they realized, this is legit."