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Century football players receive safety gear

Northview High football players fitted for performance rib shirts (WEAR-TV)

Football players at Northview High School in Century are suiting up with the latest protective gear, thanks to a generous donation.

The group behind the donation says the gear is needed now more than ever.

The Northview Chiefs now have "performance rib shirts" to wear under their uniforms.

The shirts hold a special gel pack that molds to the player's body and hardens.

It's form-fitting protection against injuries.

Brian Haugen: "Although the abdominal injuries appear to be rare to most people who don't know, they actually are very prominent."

Brian Haugen knows the dangers.

Ten years ago, his son -- Niceville High wide receiver Taylor Haugen -- lacked that protection.

Slammed between two players from the other team, he died hours later from massive internal bleeding.

Now, the Taylor Haugen Foundation is on a mission to protect other young players.

Quarterback Seth Killam was one of the players who tried on his new shirt Wednesday.

"It's nice," Killam said. "I didn't think it'd be this comfortable. It forms to your body good."

Before receiving the shirts, Killam and other Northview players were shown video of the tackle that cost Taylor Haugen his life.

Killam said, "It was a hard hit, and plays like that happen all the time in sports."

Brian Haugen says they're more prevalent now than when his son died.

Haugen said, "There have been more kids that have passed away from abdominal injuries in the last three years at the secondary schools than from concussion injuries."

He believes that's because of new rules designed to protect players' heads.

Haugen said, "Helmets, helmet contact and chop block rules are making the torso more of a target and it's rarely protected, so what we try to do is get more protection in that area."

The rib shirts cost about eighty dollars each.

Northview Coach Derek Marshman is grateful to the foundation for protecting his team.

Derek Marshman/Northview High Coach: "I have one daughter, but I have 50 sons, and to be able to protect these kids and see what could happen to them if they're not protected in the correct way, it would be devastating."

Brian Haugen says the foundation's ultimate goal is to raise awareness of the dangers. He wants to see abdominal protection made mandatory for every player at every level.

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