George O’Leary, a coach at the University of Central Florida, recently described his coaching style as “tough, but fair.” The UCF coach has won numerous football games and received coaching awards during his 40-year career. However, there are many football players that claim he pushed them too hard.
Former UCF defensive end DaQuwan McNealy is among the football players who feel they were pushed too hard. He said that his football career came to an end when O’Leary forced him to do reps on a leg-press machine. McNealy had never pressed so much weight before, but O’Leary told him to do it anyway. McNealy attempted to push the weight, but ended up passing out. The weight crashed down and pushed McNealy’s knees into his chest. Witnesses said that he turned blue and they could hear the air get knocked out of him.
McNealy spent the next four days at a hospital where he was diagnosed with high blood pressure, a leaking heart valve and vasovagal syncope, a condition that causes fainting.
O’Leary is now facing the fallout from the death of freshman wide receiver Ereck Plancher. Plancher collapsed and died after a strength-and-conditioning workout on March 18, 2008. Plancher’s parents have told state and school officials they intend to file a wrongful-death suit against the university.
In a letter published in the Orlando Sentinel on July 27th, O’Leary wrote, “Nothing in my 40 years of coaching experience prepared me for the emotions of that day.”
McNealy no longer attends college and cannot play football. He said that several former teammates called and told him of Plancher’s collapse and its similarity to McNealy’s ordeal. Plancher had collapsed and died after a workout that included 75 minutes of weightlifting, 10 minutes of stretching, 20 minutes of agility drills and two sprints.
Four football players who were there at the time of Plancher’s death said that he was squinting as if he was being blinded by the sun and was making a low moaning noise as he breathed. Plancher fell during the final sprints and O’Leary said he saw him get up.
The four players said that O’Leary criticized Plancher. Later, Plancher fell to one knee and drifted out of consciousness.