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Top NFL draft prospect and former Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen splits his time between battling 300-pound linemen in the trenches with engaging in gaming and virtual reality.
A top-five projected pick this Thursday night in Philadelphia, Allen recently described how his interest in computers specifically started in high school but increased when he attended college in 2013. Over the past four years, gaming and its intersection with virtual reality has drawn Allen’s attention even further.
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“Recently, the virtual reality thing came out so I’ve been really interested in that,” he told FOXSports.com in February. “It’s still fairly new, so there aren’t a lot of games out for it yet. I have it for the PS4 and computer. I have cameras set up for the computer—I mapped out the room—so it’s fun, I really enjoy it.”
The virtual reality and gaming enthusiast plays mostly first-person shooter games such as “Battlefield” on his PlayStation VR but on his computer — where he utilizes three separate portable monitors — his game of choice is “Total War.”
When asked about what the future away from the gridiron looks like following a career that hasn’t even started yet, Allen said he’d be interested in developing and testing video games.
“Anything I can get my hands on, I’m definitely cool with. Then from there it can just grow and build. So I’m interested in any way I can get involved because that’s where my heart’s at. I love it,” he told FOXSports.com.
From a virtual reality interest standpoint, Allen is joined by other NFL prospects such as quarterbacks Josh Dobbs (Tennessee) and Patrick Mahomes II (Texas Tech), with the former having used the technology for game preparation during his time in Knoxville, Tenn.
“Sports technology is a growing field, and I’m always looking at what next’s to gain an edge on the competition,” Dobbs told SportTechie last month.
While Dobbs utilized an in-house virtual realty system as a Volunteer, Texas Tech and Mahomes partnered with STRIVR Labs for training simulation. Just a few games into this past season, Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury credited virtual reality and the additional mental repetitions for helping Mahomes improve his pre-snap reads and operate quicker at the line of scrimmage.
“My entire life, I’ve always searched for how to simulate playing the position of quarterback,” Kingsbury said in a VICE documentary about the Texas Tech football program and its VR use. “You can throw, you can work out, but you can’t simulate that. You don’t have 21 other guys. Virtual reality is the closest thing you can do to playing the position. That’s huge. Patrick is operating at an incredibly high level compared to last year, and a lot of it’s due to virtual reality.”
Given both quarterbacks’ previous introduction to virtual reality, it’ll be interesting to follow this weekend and see if a NFL team who already leverages virtual reality selects either player.