(Millington, TN) A Florida couple, whose son died playing football, learned of a similar case at Millington High School and decided to donate special protective gear to the team.
Brian and Kathy Haugen’s son, Taylor, died four years ago very much like Dana Payne did in Millington.
Taylor was “a wide receiver for a Niceville high school in Florida, same age, same position,” Brian Haugen said.
While they spent a lot of time grieving the loss of their only child, they soon knew they had to do something to bring attention to the lack of protection for young athletes on the field.
“Pros and college, they tend to have a lot more muscle, and these kids tend to be still growing,” Haugen said.
On Thursday, the Taylor Haugen Foundation donated 149 rib shirts to Millington football players from sixth graders to seniors.
The special gear, made with new technology, forms a hard shield formed to each player’s ribs. The pad is made with polymer blends that is at first bendable in its foil pack, but hardens once it makes contact with the moisture in the air.
The hardened shield is tough enough to withstand a hit by an opponent’s helmet.
“I can’t really feel anything that hit my side,” said George Odum, a senior football player.
Odum and other players were excited to use this new gear they called “comfortable.”
At the same time, they will always be thinking of the reason they’re receiving this attention: the loss of their teammate, Dana Payne.
“Everybody over here wants to play for him,” said William Littles.
Coach Chris Michael said that this has been a very difficult year because of their loss, a loss that has been hard to put in words.
Receiving this protective gear is one step in the healing process that the Haugens understand.
“If it just helps one kid, from getting a bruised rib, or getting a shot that’s going to knock him out for a few plays, it just means all the world to the team,” Michael said.
Kathy Haugen knows this will not bring back her son, or Dana Payne, but she hopes the foundation can now do some good.
“We’ll never get over his death. Hopefully out of this we can do something that will benefit all the children,” she said.