High school football players are tough on the field, but Thursday they turned into teddy bears, giving hugs after receiving a generous gift: New high-tech gear to protect them from internal injuries caused by impacts during games.
"We're just happy somebody really cared about the safety of the game," says Millington High School football player Tevin Oliver. "When we have it on us, we can go across the middle without having a second thought. Going across and getting hit, you'll bounce right back up."
The Haugen family's son only Taylor, 15, died after being tackled by two people during a football team five years ago, crushing his liver. After hearing about the similar death of Millington High School football player Dana Payne, the Haugen family donated new EvoShield rib shirts to the team all free of cost.
"Although we're not able to help Dana and his family now, we want to be able to come up here and make sure we can do the best we can to try to avoid this happening in the future to the next athlete," says Brian Haugen, father to Taylor Haugen.
"We feel that this is what we're supposed to do, that us losing our only child this is what we're supposed to do to save all the other ones," says Kathy Haugen, mother to Taylor Haugen.
The EvoShield Youth Protective Rib Shirts works by placing special Gel-to-Shell pads in an Under Armor shirt. The pads heat up then cool down, forming to the player's body and provide a lightweight, custom-molded protective shield, according to Brian.
"It's only three-eighths of an inch thick and it's the most impacting chemical that's available on the grid iron," he says.
The Taylor Haugen Foundation also paid for other area high schools to be fitted with the shirts, donating a total of 150 of the protective shirts.
Brian says their organization provides grants to middle and high school teams to purchase the shirts, but says those parents who are buying for their child only can go to the EvoShield website can enter the code "YESS2012" to save 15 percent.