Tennessee Titans safety Bernard Pollard talks fast, his words blending together, but he's not talking about football.
Pollard is one of the most feared players in the NFL, known for his hard hits, but this is his other side that not as many people know about: Inventor and businessman.
his Style Pro 31 company. The contraption fits over most sinks, including the pedestal variety. It was created by Pollard to create counter space where there is none – something he often experienced on the road in the NFL where hotel bathrooms were often tight.Pollard is the inventor of the Smart Tray, the first product developed by
Pollard hopes his career as an inventor will continue — after he's done delivering hits for the Titans, that is.
“I wanted to take advantage of the thoughts running around in my head. I see so many things where people come out with different products and inventions and I thought about some of that stuff, so I was like 'Let's move on to the next thing,' and this was it,” Pollard said.
Pollard has always had a creative mind. As a youngster he used to tape his own radio show on a boombox, and would take apart computers to see how they worked. In school he was always interested in how things worked. Growing up, he learned “differently” than most of his classmates and looked at problems and situations from an outside-the-box perspective. That has continued into adulthood. After a foray a few years ago into the world of cellphone apps, Pollard wants to create more items like the Smart Tray.
“The product — it allows so many people to gain their space back and gain that feeling that you have a spa in a bathroom," Pollard said, his words speeding up as he gets more excited. "It's heat resistant, portable. Good for bathrooms, dorm rooms. A product that helps people. With it being heat resistant, you don't want to worry about your curlers or dryer melting it, burning it."
Pollard is in full salesman mode, explaining the benefits of the product. He's no longer the well-known safety who is entering his ninth NFL season and gained a bit of notoriety for delivering injuries to Patriots players, including Tom Brady's season-ending knee injury in 2008. The man talking is a businessman, pitching a product he created and believes in.
But unlike a positional meeting in which Pollard can walk up to the whiteboard and begin sketching with a dry-erase marker, there's far more that goes into developing a product than just an idea and a sketch or two.
His original drawing of the Smart Tray “looked like a urinal thing you use in a hospital," so in November of 2012 he took it to a professional artist. He made sure that a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) was signed before he revealed his idea for the Smart Tray. He then talked through his vision with the artist – a vision that he wasn't capable of accurately putting down on paper in sketch form.
A total of four mock-ups over a few weeks time meant that Pollard had something on paper that looked exactly like what he pictured in his mind. Then he went to a friend in the “plastics industry”— again with another NDA in hand — to bring the vision from paper to reality. It took a month-and-a-half but he finally saw his innovation coming to life.
By early 2013 his vision was now a piece of plastic reality, but then he had to patent it. The clock began to move at a snail's pace through that process, but Pollard was committed to the project.
The patent process began in January of 2013 and it wasn't completed until May of 2014. Paperwork — some more paperwork ... and then more paperwork — along with a change of name for the proposed product kept things interesting.
Designing and creating is partially a stress reliever during a grinding NFL season (he has more innovations on the way, he says) but he hopes it becomes more than that. When his long-term plans get brought up, that's when Pollard really gets excited.
“I have so many different ideas in my head, so many different things I have written down," Pollard said. "I want to be my own boss. I sort of am right now but I'm under a general manager, head coach and owner.
“I thank God I can play this game. But I want to be able to create jobs. I want to be able to help people, help people in America work, get jobs, provide for their families.”
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Kristian R. Dyer writes for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer
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