Texas coach John Harrell backed by students after suspension over 400-pushup punishment

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Texas coach John Harrell backed by students after suspension over 400-pushup punishment

About 40 students wearing “Keep Harrell” t-shirts spoke out in support of a Texas high school football coach who is under investigation for an extreme work out that sent multiple players to the hospital, according to local reports.

Coach John Harrell has been suspended for more than a week, after several parents at Rockwall-Heath High School said their kids were forced to do up to 400 push ups as punishment and had to be hospitalized.

The students are part of the Hawks’ varsity football team who participated in an off-season workout, with at least eight boys ending up in the emergency room.

Harrell’s defenders attended a school board meeting Tuesday night, asking the Rockwall Independent School District in suburban Dallas not to fire the head trainer.

“This isn’t about choosing sides,” team captain Brady Luff said at the meeting, according to the Fox station in Dallas.

“We want to support Coach Harrell and all of our teammates. Harrell has been a father figure to a lot of these boys, including me.”

A group of students spoke out in support of Texas high school football coach John Harrell amid an investigation into an extreme workout he made players do.
A group of students spoke out in support of Texas high school football coach John Harrell amid an investigation into an extreme workout he made players do.
Rockwall Heath Hawks Baseball

The public backing comes as Child Protective Services launched its own investigation into the Jan. 6 incident.

Parents of the teammates who sought medical care were not at the board meeting, but have previously detailed the serious consequences of the exercises they were forced to do.

One player spent seven days in the hospital with symptoms like having dark urine, his mother — who is a medical doctor– told the local station.

“He could not lift his arms, brush his teeth. He could not lift his hands to wash his face. He had swelling in his muscles,” Dr. Osehotue Okokie explained.

“I’ve spoken to military folks, and they haven’t done that level of workout, and these are children.”

Multiple parents said their sons were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown in muscle tissue which releases a damaging protein into the bloodstream, which can cause kidney damage or failure in extreme cases.

The workout sent at least eight players to the emergency room.
The workout sent at least eight players to the emergency room.

Child Protective Services has launched an investigation into the incident.
Child Protective Services has launched an investigation into the incident.


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One of the players spent several days in the hospital.
One of the players spent several days in the hospital.


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Harrell has been the head coach for a year and has been part of the football program since 2019. Last season, the team had a 7-5 record.

The school board didn’t take action regarding his future and reminded the community that the investigation would take time and no one should jump to conclusions.

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