Community Mourns Fallen Football Player

By: Alex Denis
By: Alex Denis

Friends and family gathered at the First United Methodist Church of Niceville today to say good-bye to a Niceville High School football player who died early Saturday morning.

Fifteen-year-old Taylor Haugen died after sustaining serious injuries during Friday night's game against Ft. Walton Beach. Friends say Haugen's short life touched many.

Flowers, jerseys, and messages, both public and private, line the fence at Niceville's stadium, a reminder of Taylor Haugen, a young man that people in the community say touched many lives.

Alexis Tibbetts, Okaloosa County Superintendent, said, "Just a fine young man, someone that every student would aspire to be, and a child that every parent would love to know and have."

Students wore pins to class on Tuesday in remembrance of Haugen, an active student that played football, wrestled, and was a member of the National Honor Society.

His youth pastor, Billy Russell, says Taylor was the type of person that attracted others.

Billy Russell said, "There was a ripple affect in his life in how he affected other people, and obviously in his death there is definitely a ripple affect of him continuing to be a light of Christ to other people, not just students, but to adults as well."

First United Methodist Church of Niceville opened its doors to over 500 people Saturday morning, offering them a place to grieve and counselors to talk to. The same support was offered Tuesday at the high school, and on the Internet, as over 1,000 students have joined a Facebook group created in Taylor's memory.

While his body was laid to rest Tuesday afternoon, people who know Taylor say he will never be forgotten.

"That play that night on the field was a play that was called by the Lord, and we're going forward with him in our hearts."

The Haugen family plans on starting a scholarship in memory of Taylor. They've asked for contributions to be made to the First United Methodist Church of Niceville.

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