Buckeye football great recruits students to advance startup’s technology

Posted: November 21, 2022
Group photo with students and Anthony Schlegel
Anthony Schlegel (second from right) with CDME students and staff.

Students at The Ohio State University’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) are teaming up with former Buckeye linebacker and coach Anthony Schlegel to enhance football players’ strength and conditioning performance.

Schlegel, a two-year letterwinner (2004-05), was a member of the Big Ten co-champion squad that won the 2006 Fiesta Bowl. After a few years playing in the NFL and the United Football League, he returned to Ohio State in 2011 to serve as an assistant strength and conditioning coach.

Following the 2014 National Championship season, Schlegel was inspired by a practice drill to design a device to help athletes hone their fundamental hand placement and striking techniques.

“In a game where every inch and every second matters, being elite at the fundamentals is critical,” Schlegel said, “The drill truly made the difference in our 2014 National Championship run. While in the weight room, I wanted to work on this while training our athletes.”

Known as The Difference, the drill was conducted with wooden boards and had to be done in pairs. Wanting players to be able to practice these skills individually and outside of practice, Schlegel created a prototype that later became The Difference Striking Machine and installed it in Ohio State’s weight room. After noticing players using the prototype on their own time, he realized its potential and left his coaching position to launch his own business. With help from Ohio State’s technology commercialization team, Schlegel received two patents for his design.

The Difference Striking Machine is now used in training programs across the NFL and college football.

Students gathered around whiteboard to draw ideas
CDME undergraduate employees, Belquis Mbayu, Carley Miller and Jake Ross, working on The Difference prototype designs.

CDME students are working with Schlegel and his company, The Difference USA, to develop next-generation prototypes of the hand striking machine and enable it to be easily attached to existing strength and conditioning equipment. These improvements would enable coaches and trainers to further integrate the machine into their training programs.

With some help from CDME staff, the students are designing attachment technologies to enhance The Difference’s portability, while considering cost factors. If successful, the partnership will tackle other enhancements, including ways to modify The Difference for other sports.

“Working with students, especially Buckeyes, is very exciting for me,” said Schlegel, who earned his MBA from Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business in 2015. “I have always talked about the importance of leadership on and off the field, and this project gives students the opportunity to learn exactly what business owners are looking for. I am really impressed with CDME’s students thus far, seeing their attention to detail and understanding of my product was incredible.”

At CDME, student employees work in an industrial environment that matches their experience after graduation. Real-world projects like this one give students hands-on experience integrating new technology while providing industry partners opportunities to engage prospective talent necessary to compete in a global marketplace.

“This project forces me to think out of the box as I venture deeper into prototype design, CAD drawings and implementing key manufacturing principles,” said Rohan Madan, a CDME undergraduate student assistant. “It is also really thrilling to work with a company that is a pioneer in its field and has deep roots at Ohio State.”

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