A Texas high school football player is defending his coach who is under investigation after he was accused of forcing players to do up to 400 push-ups as punishment — sending several students to the hospital, according to local reports.
At least eight football players at an elite public high school in the Dallas suburb of Heath were treated by doctors after the extreme workout a week ago.
Rockwall-Heath High School head football coach John Harrell was placed on leave while a third party conducts an investigation.
Brady Luff, a varsity captain for the Hawks, told WFAA he was at Friday’s workout — when other players allege they were deprived of water and subjected to performing 300-400 push-ups within an hour.
“Our motto, it’s the number 16,” the junior told the Dallas station. “Sixteen ball games to win a championship. We do these workouts and it’s all about discipline. If we get them right, we move on. If not, we do 16 push-ups.”
The teen said the intensity was no different than other exercises the team has done.
“I’ve heard people say that we didn’t have water, and that is not true,” Luff said. “We have these big jugs full of water. You can go there in between reps and get water whenever you want. No one was deprived of water.”
Parents of other players said the push-ups had dangerous consequences.
A mother who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation said her son was hospitalized and diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, which can cause kidney damage or failure.
Luff added that Harrell had been at the hospital checking on the players who had fallen ill.
“He would never make us do a workout thinking it was gonna put any of us at risk,” Luff said.
Harrell has been the head football coach at Rockwall-Heath for a year and has been part of the school’s program since 2019.
He’s also coached at other schools in North Texas.