Browns contest offers high school team safer football helmets

The Cleveland Browns are holding a contest to give away new, safer helmets to one local school. (Source: WOIO)
The Cleveland Browns are holding a contest to give away new, safer helmets to one local school. (Source: WOIO)

CHAGRIN FALLS, OH (WOIO) - Protection on the football field during the toughest plays can come down to the type of helmet players are wearing. The Cleveland Browns want to give one high school football team the chance to wear the best.

We checked in with one school in northeast Ohio that's taking football helmet safety very seriously. When Kenston Middle School football players head onto the field, they are outfitted in five-star rated Virginia Tech helmets.

"So if you go around and look at a lot of our kids' helmets, they're not all scuffed up like the kids in the past that were just head banging and doing those kinds of things. We're teaching them the proper way of doing it," said head eighth grade football coach Jeff Gowdy.

Gowdy says all of their coaches are Heads Up certified by USA Football.

"We found there is no concussion-proof helmet," Gowdy said. "But now we are addressing what kids are doing on the field. We're addressing heat exhaustion, hydration, all of those things."

"There's new helmets coming out every year. So you have to look into which helmets you want to buy, specifically with chin straps and face masks," said George Gresko, Kenston Middle School's team defense coordinator.

A lot of local schools have a hard time affording the best helmets, but now they have an opportunity to snag some. The Cleveland Browns are holding a contest to equip a local high school football team with five-star helmets.

"That would be huge to get something like that for a school, because everything is expensive now. Helmets are not cheap. They're $400 a helmet," Gresko said.

The Browns care about more than just their own players' safety; they care about the future of football. That's why they're holding this helmet giveaway, in hopes of inspiring the community to make football programs safer.

"The $25,000 worth of helmets is obviously a huge incentive, but the main mission is to make the game safer, make players' safety the main concern. Through the USA Heads Up program, coaches will learn about concussion recognition and response protocol, heat hydration, proper equipment fitting," said John LaForce, manager of youth football for the Cleveland Browns.

Anyone can nominate a high school football team to enter the contest. There are weekly sweepstakes leading up to the big drawing.

Coaches at high schools who wish to enter the competition need to be enrolled in the USA Football Heads Up program, if they aren't already. The Browns will provide them with all of the information they need to get started.

"Youth football is near and dear to our hearts, obviously, as an NFL football team. It's our responsibility to protect the sport and grow the sport," LaForce explained.

A winner will be chosen by a random drawing after the Jan. 3, 2016 deadline.

But great helmets can't block all of the risks, so coaches are making sure younger football players learn the game differently.

"We're taking all of the steps we can to make the game safer to play," Gowdy said.

Copyright 2015 WOIO. All rights reserved.