By Dani Wexelman
"I can go back in my mental library," Hogan said. "I've seen this 20 times from this vantage point. I can make the correct call and run the right play against it."
The mental library he's referring to is a virtual reality headset. The 23-year-old quarterback attributes his split-second thinking and extra confidence to using the technology three to four days a week during the season for training.
When you think of virtual reality, the first thought that comes to mind might be video games or maybe even pornography (let's be honest). But the VR market is spreading its wings, and companies like STRIVR, founded by former Stanford kicker Derek Belch, want to be on the forefront of this business, which Digi-Capital predicts will rake in revenue upwards of $120 billion dollars by 2020.
"Everything we do is science-based," Belch said. "There's a ton of research coming out of Stanford about watching yourself in third person, about feeling present on the field."
STRIVR believes in self-efficacy. If you're more aware of your movements, your performance during the game should, in theory, improve.
"When I first did it [virtual reality], it's almost kind of weird how engulfed you get in the technology," Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen said. "Especially when you get the headphones on, you can kind of lose where you are in the room because it's so realistic to being outside."
Allen added that taking "virtual reps" is more beneficial than just watching game film because he felt it was "way more realistic. You can basically get all those extra reps you didn't get in practice."
But how effective is the technology? UCLA's head football coach Jim Mora is convinced there is a benefit.
"I'm not going to oversell and say it's going to win a game for us," Mora said. "But if a player is able to experience more game-like and practice-like situations, you would think their performance would improve.
"Improved performance typically equals more wins. So really it's just the more teaching tools and learning chances you give your players, the better off they should be on the field when they're performing."
Mora said the Bruins haven't chosen which VR company to work with yet, but believes progressive thinking aids in their overall success.
"You have to adjust your teaching to the way these kids learn," Mora said. "You can't expect them to adjust their learning to the way you teach."
Another VR company using the technology to help athletes find success on the field is EON Sports VR. Based in Kansas City, Mo., the company imagined a world where baseball players could train virtually, helping them preserve their bodies for the end of the season, when physical and mental health matter most.
Brendan Reilly co-founded EON Sports VR and called virtual reality a "multi-headed monster." It works exactly like a video game. Users can be anywhere in the world, insert their smart phone into a headset and step into a virtual batting cage to take cuts against the likes of Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner.
"When it's September, we don't need to kill our bodies," Reilly explained. "There might be a better way we can still get the benefit on the field and focus on the outputs of our actions, yet we won't have to go through the same rigorous body breakdown and teardown."
Batters take their hacks in the cage or during live batting practice, but it's difficult to simulate the conditions of a game and the nuances of an opponent in those instances. That's where VR hopes to come in.
"Baseball has always been the hardest thing to recreate between batter and pitcher," former big leaguer Jason Giambi said, adding that he would have jumped at the chance to use virtual reality if it were available to him during his playing days.
But this technology isn't limited to taking batting practice or pitch recognition. Companies like Two Bit Circus, based in Los Angeles, are using virtual reality to take you inside a Division 1 college football locker room, through the tunnel and onto the field -- a helpful tool for recruiting student-athletes.
Another company, NextVR, inked a deal with Turner Sports to live stream the opening night of the 2015-16 NBA season featuring the defending champion Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans.
Even MMA is jumping on. According to mmanews.com, Bellator MMA will focus on creating content to give fans a closer look at fighters' training and walk-ins.
"It's all about the presence," Belch said. "If you feel present in the environment, whether it's the sight, the sound, the smell -- well, we don't do smell, that's probably never going to happen. But that's where the learning takes place."
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Dani Wexelman is a freelance sports journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared on MLB.com, NHL.com and Sports on Earth among other outlets. Follow her on Twitter @DaniWex.