Riddell on Tuesday announced the launch of the company’s annual Smarter Football initiative. Special for the fourth season of the program, Riddell and brand ambassador and strategic advisor Peyton Manning teamed up to unveil ’18 in 18′, inviting teams to apply for 18 total equipment grants–increasing the amount from previous years’ 10.

The new “18 in 18” format not only pays homage to the number Manning wore throughout his professional career, but honors his commitment to Smarter Football and his passion for the sport. For the second consecutive year, Manning will also join Riddell in reviewing applications to help select the 18 winning teams.

“The Smarter Football program continues to be a marquee initiative for Riddell as we highlight the football community’s relentless pursuit of a safer, smarter game,” said Dan Arment, Riddell’s president and CEO. “We enjoyed great success in past years and can’t wait to see how ’18 in 18′ advances the Smarter Football message more broadly. We thank Peyton Manning for all he continues to do for the game, as we work together to enhance the efforts of today’s players and coaches.”

The Smarter Football program is a grassroots movement that recognizes and rewards teams across the country for implementing ‘smarter’ tactics on and off the field. Since its inception, more than 2,400 football programs across North America, from the youth level to semi-pro, applied for a Smarter Football equipment grant.

“When I first got involved with this initiative last year, I was so inspired by the stories and the significance the program had at all levels of the game,” said Manning, Riddell’s brand ambassador and strategic adviser. “I wanted to do something special in 2018 and show the football community that what they’re doing is making a positive difference in the game. I’m excited to be involved and honored to be part of the ’18 in 18′ effort this year.”

Those interested in applying for a grant can visit Riddell.com/SmarterFootball. The deadline for entries is July 9, 2018 and recipients will be announced this season. Anyone in the football community is invited to join the movement by following @RiddellSports on social media and sharing their own examples of #SmarterFootball in action.

Photo courtesy Riddell