A Rockwall-Heath High School football player is speaking out to defend head coach John Harrell, who was placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into a team workout last week.
Several parents reported cases of students suffering from rhabdomyolysis after participating in an intense workout last Friday as part of the football team’s offseason training program.
The CDC describes rhabdomyolysis as a serious medical condition that occurs when damaged muscle tissue releases its proteins and electrolytes into the bloodstream, which can damage the heart or kidneys. It can be caused by heat exposure, physical exertion and overuse, and direct trauma, and it can be fatal or lead to permanent disability.
Some of the affected students were hospitalized, and Harrell was immediately placed on leave.
The school sent a letter to parents assuring them that student safety is an important and serious issue and that a third party will conduct a thorough investigation of the incident.
Junior captain Brady Luff, who participated in the workout, spoke to WFAA Dallas about the allegations and the nature of the training.
“Heath football, it’s a brotherhood … these coaches have treated me with so much respect and have treated me like their son. I want people to know that Coach Harrell is a great man, and he’s treated us with nothing but respect. He loves every single one of us.”
Luff said that the workout was nothing out of the ordinary for the team, and asserted parts of what has been reported are not true.
“Our motto, it’s the number 16. 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.”
“I’ve heard people say that we didn’t have water, and that is not true. 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.”
Luff also mentioned that Harrell has apparently been visiting the affected players in the hospital and checking up on them.
“All night two nights ago, he was up there all night with those boys just checking on them and making sure they were okay,” Luff said. “He would never make us do a workout thinking that it was going to put any of us at risk.”