Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton asked the team’s community relations department for a list of the best high school football programs in the area.
Stanton was quickly led to Phoenix Mountain Pointe. He was told that the coaches and players “stand for all the right things.”
So Stanton stepped forward with the Taylor Haugen Foundation and its YESS (Youth Equipment for Sports Safety) Program and handed out protective gear to football players at all three levels Wednesday evening in Mountain Pointe’s gym.
Stanton helped players put on the EvoShield protective gear, which he has worn for seven years in the NFL, starting with the Detroit Lions, where quarterback Matthew Stafford was wearing it.
It helps prevent abdominal and internal injuries with pads placed under a tight mesh shirt on the back and sides.
The Taylor Haugen Foundation and YESS, a non-profit organization, began following the 2008 death of 15-year-old Niceville (Fla.) High junior varsity receiver Taylor Haugen, who had suffered an abdominal injury in football. Brian and Kathy Haugen created the foundation in 2011 to help kids and keep their son’s memory alive.
The equipment better protects football players from internal injuries.
“There is nothing I gain by doing this, except for the standpoint that I help them grow their son’s legacy,” Stanton told the players before helping them apply the equipment.
Stanton told the players that internal injuries from football didn’t register in his head initially, because the main focus has been on concussions.
According to the foundation, which focuses on protecting middle school and high school athletes from abdominal injuries, three of the seven high school football-related deaths in the United States in 2015 were caused by abdominal injuries.
“As football players, you try to be tough, you try to do different things,” Stanton told the players. “By simply putting these pads on, believe me, I can’t tell you how many times those have saved me in the long run.”
Mountain Pointe senior offensive lineman Eddie Rivas said that he feels honored that Mountain Pointe was picked to wear the protective gear this football season.
He was moved by a video that discussed the death of Haugen.
“It can happen to anyone getting hit any time,” Rivas said. “You don’t know what the outcome can be. So knowing you do have that protection, it’s a blessing, really.”
Rivas said injuries are in the back of players’ minds, but, he added, “it’s football.”
“They told us since we were a kid, ‘That’s what you signed up for,’ ” Rivas said. “But knowing there are procedures to make it safer, that’s good.”
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The Taylor Haugen Foundation was created to honor the memory of the 15-year-old Niceville High School student who passed away after a traumatic liver injury sustained during a football game on August 30, 2008
The Taylor Haugen Foundation provides awareness, education and abdominal injury protection to secondary aged schools and leagues in contact sports, through its YESS© Program (Youth Equipment for Sports Safety). The Foundation also recognizes and supports outstanding scholar-athletes with scholarships and awards.