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Rockwall students show support for suspended football coach at school board meeting

CPS is investigating Rockwall-Heath High School varsity football team workout that led to hospitalizations.
CPS is investigating the Rockwall-Heath High School varsity football team workout that led to hospitalizations.

Multiple football players were hospitalized after a pushup workout led by Rockwall-Heath High School's head coach John Harrell, who is now on leave. Some parents and students want him back.

Parents and students of Rockwall-Heath High School showed support for suspended football head coach John Harrell at a Rockwall ISD school board meeting Tuesday.

Harrell was put on leave after several players were hospitalized following an intense workout, according to the district. In a letter to parents, Principal Todd Bradford said Harrell forced the players to do pushups in an eighth-period athletics class on Jan. 6. Some parents told The Dallas Morning News Harrell forced the players to do nearly 400 pushups in an hour.

Brady Luff, a varsity football player at Rockwall-Heath, spoke at Tuesday night's meeting.

"We as a team want to support Coach Harrell and all of our teammates," Luff said. "Harrell has been a father figure to a lot of these boys, including me, and, you know, he's just a great man."

FOX 4 reported about 40 students attended the Tuesday night meeting wearing "Keep Harrell" T-shirts.

Bradford did not specify how many pushups the players had to do, but said the following Monday the school's athletic trainer advised the students to report if they were unable to bend or lift their arms, had pain in their arms or dark urine. The school's athletic trainer declined to comment.

Those symptoms are consistent with rhabdomyolysis, a condition resulting from muscle damage that can lead to permanent disability or death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A Department of Family and Protective Services spokesperson confirmed the department was conducting an investigation into what happened, but said all other details are confidential. DFPS will forward all potential findings to the school district board.

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Toluwani Osibamowo is a general assignments reporter for KERA. She previously worked as a news intern for Texas Tech Public Media and copy editor for Texas Tech University’s student newspaper, The Daily Toreador, before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is originally from Plano.