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Helping make football safer
High school football is a way of life in the south, but it's also a dangerous contact game. And that's why some organizations are pairing up to make sure these players are as safe as possible.
On Fridays nights in the fall, stadiums across the Panhandle are filled with fans, family, and friends of high school gridiron warriors.
Josh Pulliam is an assistant coach for the Choctawhatchee High School Indians, and said "everybody wants to play football, everybody wants to be a part of it, but it is a dangerous sport at the same time."
In 2008, Niceville High's Taylor Haugen was tackled in a game. Internal bleeding caused by an injury to his liver would prove fatal. That led to the Taylor Haugen foundation.
Taylor's father Brian Haugen said "we knew early on at the beginning of the foundation that what we wanted to do was help better protect kids from abdominal injury."
On Wednesady, the foundation and the Okaloosa County All Sports Association outfitted Choctawhatchee High School players with Evo-Shield pads. Every player was given his own form-fitted gear. The pads wrap around the players backs and sides, and protect them from abdominal injury.
All-Sports Association member Bernard Johnson said "accidents and injuries are going to occur. But if we can do our part to at least protect the internal organs, that's what's key."
The foundation and association have outfitted over eleven hundred athletes, and sixteen different teams. Taylor's father, Brian, says their ultimate goal is much higher.
"We're planning on trying to outfit every middle school and high school football team that sends us an application across the country."
Choctawhatchee assistant coach Josh Pulliam says the work the foundation is doing is good for the kids of the community.
"Anything we can do to protect them, and have this opportunity that the Haugens have given us, it's awesome."
The Taylor Haugen Foundation says after they're done outfitting schools in Walton and Okaloosa, they'd like to move on and do the same in Escambia and Santa Rosa.