The next generation of Tumwater High School football began Tuesday — complete with new helmets.
As spring practices began, the Seattle Seahawks and United HealthCare presented the T-Birds with 25 new, concussion-tested helmets for the upcoming season.
The Riddell SpeedFlex helmets are designed to promote performance and protection, and are valued at more than $400 apiece.
“These are some of the newest and best helmets Riddell has,” said Paul Johns, the Seahawks director of youth football and alumni programs.
The gold helmets, organized neatly in a row on Tumwater’s practice field, were given as part of a presentation honoring former T-Birds coach Sid Otton.
Otton retired at the conclusion of the 2016 season after 43 years with the program, and remains Washington’s all-time winningest coach at 394-131. He was named the high school coach of the year by the Seahawks and UnitedHealthcare in December, and received a $2,000 grant and the promise of new helmets.
The entirety of the gifts totals more than $12,000 for Tumwater football.
Otton attended the T-Birds’ first practice on Tuesday, and said it was “awesome” to have this new gear added to the program.
“For those of us that are a little bit older, the helmets were a little bit different when we played,” Otton said, addressing the next group of Tumwater football players.
He then handed a helmet to Bill Beattie, his former player and successor, as Beattie explained the benefits.
Claire Verity, UnitedHealthcare’s Pacific Northwest CEO, said the partnership with the Seahawks was created to promote safety in high school football, and teach better practices to reduce injury.
Tumwater’s program is projected to have more than 130 participants this spring, Beattie said.
“This program is a healthy program,” Johns said. “This is a legacy that’s just going to continue.”
The helmets won’t be the only new addition. New turf will be installed at Tumwater District Stadium, which will be dedicated as “Sid Otton Field” on Sept. 15 when the T-Birds host Bellevue.
“It makes me feel good that football is still thriving in different parts of the country,” Johns said.
Spring practices resume Wednesday, though Otton said he will be scarce as Beattie continues to take the reins.
Beattie, who played four years for Otton in the 1970s, was hired to take over the program earlier this year after spending 22 years at Olympia. Beattie is also a former Seahawks selection for high school coach of the week. He was awarded the honor in November after the Bears beat longtime league rival Bellarmine Prep, 37-30.
“These young men are in great hands, I know that,” Otton said.