Jason Goltz uses his rare 3-sport gaming experience to drive Hawk-Eye’s sales pitches and technology demonstrations
Jason Goltz draws on his college gaming experience in basketball, baseball and football to help Hawk-Eye understand the technology needs in all three sports and “lead the conversation” in sales presentations.Courtesy of Jason Goltz
After perfecting 3D tracking, a team of Hawk-Eye Innovations engineers flew to the Target Center in Minnesota last May to test optical technology that could potentially automate goalie calls in the NBA.
One problem: who would parry shots over the edge?
Standing in the middle of the court that day with a gleam in his eyes was 6ft 5, 35-year-old Hawk-Eye Justin Goltz… holding a pair of sneakers. In a gym full of techies, Goltz grabbed a basketball and dived in, proving once again why he’s invaluable to a company that’s impacting sport around the world.
Hawk-Eye has made a name for itself with automated line calls in tennis and VAR in football. But in the US, the company has flirted with the NFL, MLB, and NBA — and it’s Goltz that gives Hawk-Eye credibility in every league.
“Once you’ve played the sport yourself, you can talk and go,” said Dan Cash, Hawk-Eye’s North America general manager.
Goltz is the rare athlete to have played college football, baseball, and basketball, though never all in the same year. His coaches at LA’s Division III Occidental College asked him to choose a track or a sport, but his decision to stick with all three gives him a certain cachet in the NFL, MLB and NBA that’s unique in the industry is.
“I think that’s pretty rare in the business world, I’ve found,” said Goltz, Hawk-Eye’s commercial director for North America.
Back in his hometown of Walled Lake, Michigan, Goltz is a poster child for the people you never know. During high school, he went from 5-9 to 6-5, eventually starting as a quarterback in football, throwing a no-hitter in baseball, and collecting double-doubles in basketball.
Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Western Michigan seemed all set to sign him for football. But Occidental dangled all three sports. He drove west.
He fell in love with California health foods and a California girl 10 years his senior, a professional beach volleyball player named Meri-de Boyer. To hear them tell it, Goltz was mature beyond his years — “Took my mother’s chair to the sidelines of games,” she said — and was single-minded about his future: professional football.
After leading Occidental into the playoffs as a quarterback as a senior, Goltz attended the 2008 NFL Pro Day at the University of Hawaii in LA. He then networked with Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart on pass workouts. Goltz, a double threat QB, held his own.
He wasn’t drafted, but was invited to the Detroit Lions’ rookie camp with one caveat: The team’s No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford would take the most replays. After all, they’d just paid Stafford $41.7 million guaranteed while paying Goltz … a day.
But at camp, Stafford informed Goltz that he’d thrown so much during pre-draft practice that he wanted to split the reps 50-50. “I felt like hanging out with him,” Goltz said. “I wouldn’t say I was head and shoulders ahead of him. But I don’t think I was head and shoulders under him either.”
But Stafford blew him away in the film room, where Goltz called his now-wife, Meri-de, to tell her, “Stafford has a photographic memory.” The Lions thanked Goltz for coming and sent him back to SoCal.
Eventually, Goltz earned a substitute spot with the CFL Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he needed a pencil for his clipboard on game day because his pen kept freezing. “His mustache has icicles too,” said Meri-de.
But Goltz shaved and earned a starting spot, where he caused controversy for performing a Justin Timberlake “Suit and Tie” TD dance against league powerhouse Saskatchewan. When he was sent back to the bench, he thought about life after football.
He had previously done television commercials, including a Snickers commercial starring Robin Williams helping him pay the down payment on his house. He was a fictional Seahawks QB in another commercial fired by Von Miller. “If Tom Brady or Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers needed a stunt double in a commercial or something, I probably did it,” Goltz said.
Courtesy of Jason Goltz
Eventually he needed a real job and, a former economist, got a job as a sales engineer at Blast Motion, where he helped develop a market strategy for his swing-tracking sensor. During the 2018 MLB winter meetings, Goltz’s contacts encouraged him to film and study Hawk-Eye’s optical tracking cameras. “I thought, ‘If you don’t have to [put a sensor] on someone and still follow closely, that’s probably the future of the sport,'” he said.
In August 2019, Hawk-Eye hired Goltz to work with MLB and the NFL. It wasn’t long before baseball incorporated Hawk-Eye technology into its automated ball and batting system, and the NFL used Hawk-Eye technology for final angles on instant rechecks.
Goltz handled some of those talks and sales, proving that ex-athletes can carve out a niche in the sports tech space. “I’m trying my best but Justin survived,” said Cash, a native Brit. “When he’s on the phone with the NFL and he’s talking about the value of skeletal tracking and how to pull up the data to see trends, some of that goes over my head. I don’t know the playbook as well as he does.”
As Hawk-Eye seeks to implement data collection into the NBA — to automate goal tracking and out-of-bounds calls — Goltz is a key liaison. The company is part of an RFP process to form a more formal relationship with the league, and if Goltz’s NBA contacts want him hanging on the sidelines to demonstrate Hawk-Eye’s 3D technology, no problem.
“The fact that I can say in a meeting that I played three sports in college — whether I’m talking to someone in the NBA, NFL or MLB — means I get it,” Goltz said. “I understand the sport, the mentality.”
He always has his sneakers nearby, just in case.