CRESTVIEW — Shoal River Middle School football players will be a little safer this fall when they take the field.
Tuesday each Mustang received an EvoShield rib shirt thanks to efforts of the Dugas Family Foundation and the Taylor Haugen Foundation’s YESS Program (Youth Equipment for Sports Safety).
Taylor Haugen was a 15-year old Niceville High School student who died following a hit to his spleen in August of 2008.
Since then, his parents, Brian and Kathy, have kept his memory and spirit alive through the foundation bearing his name.
The Haugen Foundation and the YESS Program have secured grants to pay for the $90 piece of equipment that helps better protect players.
“We’ve supplied close to 25 schools and 2,000 players with the EvoShield,” Brian Haugen said. “We have grant money to provide every high school and middle school player in Okaloosa and Walton County with the shield.
“But we can’t do it unless we know what to order. We want the coaches to aggressively look for the application and apply so we can get it on the kids.”
While football equipment is created so one size fits many, the EvoShield rib shirt is made from a chemical polymer designed to fit the contour of an individual player’s body size and shape.
“It’s lightweight; it’s 5/8th inch thick and it’s breathable,” Haugen said. The thing that makes it really unique is it feels like a part of your T-shirt. It doesn’t feel like an extra pad or extra equipment or something that weighs you down."
Shoal River is the first school in North Okaloosa County to receive the EvoShield.
“It’s crazy,” Mustang Coach Ryan Gillis said. “First of all, they are giving them (the players) a $90 present. The second thing is it is going to keep kids safe and that’s the most important thing.
“It’s an honor to be working with such a great foundation. Hopefully it’s going to supply them (the players) with a little more confidence (and) they can go a little bit harder.”
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at email@example.com, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.