Parents Support Suspended Football Coach


Two men play football | Image by football wife/Pexels

Several parents as well as current and former football players of Rockwall Heath High School attended Tuesday night’s board meeting in support of suspended football coach John Harrell.

The meeting was supposed to be a closed session — which is required by the Texas Association of School Boards for matters regarding issues like educator evaluations and confidential legal matters.

Tuesday’s meeting was intended to discuss ongoing third-party investigations into a January 6 incident by Adams, Lynch and Loftin, P.C. and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Harrell is currently on administrative leave stemming from a team workout that allegedly caused several players to seek medical attention. Some were even hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo) — a condition that can cause damage to the heart and kidneys and be fatal or cause permanent disabilities as proteins are released from muscles into the bloodstream due to overuse.

The supporters all wore shirts that read “Keep Harrell” as they made their case to the board, asking for the coach to get a second chance.

“Coach Harrell would never knowingly put our boys in a situation that would cause them harm or injury,” said Stephanie Luff, the mother of team captain Brady Luff, who has also spoken in support of his coach.

“It was just an unfortunate situation that happened,” Bobby Robinson, a parent of two Heath players, added. “It was an accident, let’s figure it out. But he’s not a monster. None of those coaches are.”

According to WFAA, at least 15 student-athletes needed medical attention after doing 23 sets of 16 pushups due to mistakes made during the conditioning workout.

Some parents of those hospitalized have also spoken since the incident.

Dr. Osehotue Okojie told WFAA about the symptoms she noticed in her son.

“He was unable to lift his arms and his urine was a brown color,” she said.

“I immediately knew those were signs and symptoms … I was concerned that other athletes might not even recognize what’s happening to them.”

Her son was admitted to the hospital and received vigorous hydration treatment as his creatine kinase levels were extremely high.

Okojie also mentioned that her son was hospitalized for almost a week and that Coach Harrell had called her after her son was admitted to the hospital.

“He said he was trying to educate himself on this. He said he was not aware of what rhabdo was or how severe it was,” she added. “I told him this was excessive. That it was a lot. But I don’t think his intent was to harm our kids.”

Maria Avila also spoke with WFAA and said that her son was also hospitalized for the majority of the week.

Both Avila and Okojie told WFAA that CPS had interviewed the hospitalized students as part of its investigation.

While the Harrell supporters made their points in his defense, the severity of what some of the athletes have experienced is not lost on them.

“We pray for all of those boys every day,” Luff added. “We want them to get better and get back on the team. We also want the same for Coach Harrell. The boys miss him.”

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