TEMPLE, Texas — In Texas, high school football is a religion.
Its eager disciples strap on helmets, which as the 21st century continues trudging along, continue to make technological advances.
"We don't have to go out and really seek out technology," Scott Stewart, head football coach and athletic director at Temple High School, said. "Technology kind of finds us because people are trying to sell their new product."
The University Interscholastic League classifies Temple as a 6A school, the state's largest classification.
Stewart, who is heading into his fourth season in his current role, said coaches largely depend on information from helmet sales reps before buying. However, before finalizing any purchase, they always verify information they're given.
"There's a ton of research out there," Stewart said. "We try to stay within the realm of that, and we obviously want to go above and beyond what the minimum is for certifications and things that are keeping helmets safe."
Kevin Hoffman just finished his fourth season as the head football coach and athletic director at Mart High School, which is classified as 2A, the smallest classification which plays 11-man football.
He explained the verification process his staff goes through after it gets a helmet from a sales rep.
"You can go to NFL.com and you can look at all the different helmets and the equipment that the NFL guys are wearing," Hoffman said. "And, obviously, they're going to be at the top of the chain, as far as keeping up with the technology in the game."
So, Channel 6 took Coach Hoffman's advice and found the NFL's 2018 Helmet Laboratory Testing Performance Results, ranking various helmets on the market based on the results.
A helmet from Vicis, a company founded in 2013 which released its first Zero1 model in 2017, took the league's top two spots.
Vicis' unique model revolutionized the helmet industry: It has a soft outer shell designed to take the majority of the impact from a hit and custom-fit padding inside, eliminating the need for an air cushion to make sure helmets fit properly on every kids' head.
Dr. Samuel Browd is a co-founder of Vicis and serves as the company's chief medical officer. Additionally, he is a pediatric neurosurgeon at Seattle Children's Hospital, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Washington-Medicine and director of the University of Washington's Sports Medicine Institute.
He explained to Channel 6 how the company approached the development of its Zero1 helmet.
"There were multiple lessons that we took from the automotive industry," Dr. Samuel Browd, Vicis' co-founder and chief medical officer, said. "If you look at cars from the '70s, where they had very hard, rigid shells, there's not a lot of deformation that happens to that automobile. So, those forces are transmitted to the occupant inside."
Mark Honeycutt is in his 15th year at Mart High School, where he not only serves as the Panthers' offensive and defensive line coach, but also the football team's equipment supervisor. He keeps up with the changing technology of helmet designs and explained how Vicis' design is unique.
"It has a soft plastic-compound shell that, actually, you can push with your thumb and deform," Honeycutt said. "So, the impact is taken by the plastic of the helmet and not transferred to the kid that's inside.
"This technology, the helmet will deform and take that energy away and slow that impact down enough to where the brain is not jarred into a concussion."
Unfortunately, Vicis helmets are a luxury for high school athletes, because of their steep price tag.
The two helmet brands most commonly used in the sport, Riddell and Schutt, have the third, fourth and fifth-ranked helmets on the NFL's test results.
Mart primarily uses the Riddell Speedflex Precision helmet, the NFL's third ranked helmet. According to Honeycutt, the Speedflex has a hard-shell helmet designed to deform upon impact, similar to the Vicis.
Previously, Mart had used Riddell 360 helmets in addition to the Speedflex, however, it's currently removing the 360 helmets from the field.
That helmet, according to Honeycutt, is designed for the face mask to take the majority of an impact, transferring the force into its attaching clips and then deforming the mask itself.
"We'll look at it," Honeycutt said. "If nothing is wrong with the helmet, we would just replace the face mask and the attachments."
Temple, on the other hand, wears the Schutt Vengeance Z10 as its main helmet, another one in the NFL's top-performing group.
In fact, Schutt recently released a helmet similar to Riddell's Speedflex, which you can see in the new professional league, The Alliance of American Football.
While Stewart said he and coaches across the state will continue to make sure their football players are in the best equipment possible, not just helmets, he added teaching the right technique is just as crucial in taking the head and neck area out of the game altogether.
"The best way to not get hurt in a car crash is to not get in a car crash," Stewart said.