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Who is John Harrell? High school footballers hospitalized after coach made them do 400 pushups in an hour

Rockwall-Heath High School has suspended John Harrell while an outside investigation is conducted
John Harrell, the head football coach at Rockwall Heath High School, is accused of forcing his players to do 300 to 400 pushups in an hour (Rockwall Independent School District)
John Harrell, the head football coach at Rockwall Heath High School, is accused of forcing his players to do 300 to 400 pushups in an hour (Rockwall Independent School District)

HEATH, TEXAS: At least eight Texas high school football players have reportedly been hospitalized after their coach made them complete 400 pushups in an hour as punishment. John Harrell, the head football coach at Rockwall Heath High School, is accused of subjecting his players to the torture.

According to Dallas' Fox station, Rockwall-Heath High School sent a letter to parents informing them that John Harrell, the head football coach, has been suspended while an outside investigation is conducted. The incident is said to have occurred on Friday during physical education class in the eighth period at the elite public school located outside of Dallas.


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Who is John Harrell?

Harrell has been a coach with the school's football program since 2019. In 2022, he was named head football coach at Rockwall Heath. Harrell has also coached at other football programs in the North Texas area. During his career, he has held positions such as Head Powerlifting Coach, Run Game Coordinator, and Offensive Coordinator. Harrell previously taught Geography and World History. He gained his first coaching experience as an offensive line graduate assistant coach and tight end graduate assistant coach at Tarleton State University. He also held coaching jobs at Kansas Hutchinson Community College and Coffeyville Community College. At Rockwall Heath High School, he has been the head coach and coordinator of the run game, the Rockwall Independent School district reported. 

A letter was sent to the player's parents informing them about the incident. The letter, however, did not specify the number of students who needed to be hospitalized or what happened to them. The letter reads, "Please know the district immediately implemented measures to address the situation and provide support for our students. The district is also taking interim action, including but not limited to, placing Coach Harrell on administrative leave while the investigation is pending and notifying appropriate outside agencies. District administrators and campus personnel have been in contact with the affected families and student-athletes," as reported by Dallas Morning.

According to the news outlet, the mother of one of the hospitalized players claimed John Harrell forced the athletes to perform 300 to 400 pushups in an hour without a break. After hospitalization, her son was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a condition that can cause kidney damage or failure. At least eight students were hospitalized as a result of the extreme workout, as per some reports.

Brady Luff, Rockwall Heath's junior captain, who was present for the practice, claimed Harrell wasn't punishing the players but instilling discipline in them. He disputed a parent's claim that the players were forbidden from drinking water or taking a break while performing pushups. The players, according to Luff, had access to water and were free to leave. Coach Harrell, he continued, treated the athletes with nothing but respect and cared for them all like family. Some of the athletes expressed concern about the impact of the incident on the team's morale, Fox News reported.

According to the station, Brady's mother Stefanie Luff was in agreement with her son and claimed there was nothing wrong with Harrell's training. "If anything was going on with this situation that I thought these kids were being harmed, I would've been the first person up at the principal's office or wherever I need to go to have this shut down," she said.