ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Golden Tate wants to help the future of football. In doing so, he might end up protecting the brains of thousands of kids.
The Detroit Lions wide receiver became a partner and investor in Gamebreaker helmets, a soft-shelled helmet company trying to protect the heads of children -- and adults -- playing 7-on-7 football, women's lacrosse and soccer.
Gamebreaker was founded by a friend of his, Mike Juels, a former football coach who started publicly introducing the company in 2011. Earlier this year, Tate wanted to invest and ended as principal partners with Juels, Chicago Bears quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Clausen's brother, Rick.
"He was one of my golf buddies," Tate told ESPN. "And I obviously know endless amounts of information about football and I know how important concussions are in all sports, really. So I figured why not jump on it and help any way I can and at least keep people alert."
At first, Juels said he was hesitant to have Tate invest because he didn't want to mix business with his friends and they've known each other through the Clausens since Tate's freshman year at Notre Dame.
But in early 2015, Juels said Tate approached him about becoming involved. At the time, Juels wasn't looking for additional investors, but that changed in April, when Gamebreaker announced an exclusive partnership with D3O, a shock absorption protection and impact protection company that also works with Schutt hard-shelled helmets.
Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, the director of Michigan Neurosport at the University of Michigan, said there are no conclusive studies that soft-shelled helmets help prevent brain injury or concussions. This is in part due to it being a relatively new technology and also the individual nature of brain injuries in relation to equipment.
"On a sport-by-sport basis, you could make an argument where a soft-shelled helmet of some sort might provide some protection," Kutcher said. "So I'm all for promoting that as a concept, but I think the drawback is when these things are not universally applied and there aren't standards for the athletes.
"In other words, if a soccer player or water polo athlete or whatever are wearing it on their own, I have seen in my practice that it will sometimes change behavior."
Kutcher said it is tough to gauge if players become more aggressive -- or are played against more aggressively -- if they are wearing a soft-shelled helmet while another player is not. He would recommend consulting a neurologist before purchasing one.
Gamebreaker's goal is to outfit as many athletes as possible with the helmets -- sold for $74 on the company's website. The helmet is a three-layered product, first with a Lycra outer shell. Underneath the Lycra is EVA foam rubber and underneath that is D3O shock absorption technology that led to Juels and Tate to partner.
The plan is for Tate to become the spokesman for the 7-on-7 football division.
"I explained to him clearly that I wasn't interested in a check, there was a long line of people interested in giving us checks and buying into the business," Juels said. "It was more, if we were going to bring people in, it was going to be people who were going to help the company outside of the check department."
Since he joined the company so recently, Tate hasn't done much yet. That will change this offseason.
"I'm going to go to some conferences," Tate said. "Maybe even try to start up my own 7-on-7 camp where people are required to wear the helmets."
Juels said he expects Tate will represent the company at speaking engagements and be involved in marketing. Eventually, after Tate's playing career ends, Juels said Tate will likely become involved with all sports around the company.
Juels made it clear, though, the NFL is Tate's first priority even during the offseason, and if he has training or a commitment for his NFL career, the league comes first.
"We will never impede on that," Juels said. "If he has offseason stuff or things like that, that will be the first priority."