Home / National News / Family of Dead College Athlete Says Coaches 'Left Him There to Die'


(GERMANTOWN, Md.) — The family of a Maryland college football player who died after a sports-related concussion claim their son’s complaints were ignored during a series of dangerous preseason football drills and his coaches “left him there to die.”

Derek Sheely, of Germantown, Md., a 22-year-old fullback at Frostburg State University, died on Aug. 28, 2011. His parents filed a $1 million wrongful-death lawsuit last week claiming their son was forced to continue with strenuous preseason practice sessions in August 2011 even though he was bleeding from the forehead.

The Sheelys say their son’s complaints were ignored and instead of being checked for a concussion, he was bandaged, mocked for complaining and sent back onto the field.

“Derek was hurting and he sought help,” Sheely’s mother, Kristen told ABC News. “He said ‘I wasn’t feeling well,’ he had a headache, he was bleeding and he was called names. Put a band-aid on his head and sent back in time after time.”

“He was told to stop complaining. To stop being a sissy in more graphic terms than I just used,” Sheely’s father Kenneth added.

The Sheelys and their daughter, Keyton Sheely, brought the lawsuit against Derek’s head coach, Thomas Rogish, other team officials, the NCAA and Kranos Corp., which made the team’s helmets.

Before he died, Sheely had engaged in 13 hours of full-contact drills in a three-and-a-half day period, according to the suit. The drills consisted of fullbacks running full-speed into halfbacks, crashing into them headfirst.

“The fullbacks on the offense were instructed to run at full speed leading with their helmets to run into the other fullbacks and it’s our understanding is that these drills were run over and over again often times multiple times in the same day,” Kenneth Sheely said.

Derek Sheely, after having his forehead bandaged for several days, told an assistant coach he “didn’t feel right” and had a headache on Aug. 22, 2011. He walked off the field and collapsed, lapsing into a coma. He died six days later, the lawsuit said.

“Derek was not one to complain and if he came forward that really means something to me, that really means something was wrong…” Kenneth Sheely said. “In one week he had sustained so much head injury, so much head trauma that he passed away from it. They beat Derek up and left him there to die.”

The Sheelys said Derek was a “wonderful person” and a “bright student” who wanted to work for the CIA.

“He was getting a double major in history and political science and he really wanted to go out and do political service with the CIA. So this was supposed to be his victory lap, a last opportunity to play football,” Sheely said.

The family’s lawsuit, filed on Aug. 22 in Circuit Court for Montgomery County, came the same week that the National Football League agreed to pay players who had sustained brain injuries from football $765 million, settling a years-long conflict over whether the NFL knowingly ignored brain trauma in its players.

In a statement to ABC News the NCAA said, “We were saddened by this student-athlete’s death in 2011 and continue to extend our sympathies to the family. Nonetheless, we disagree with the assertions and allegations made against the NCAA.”

Kranos Corp. told ABC News that it does not comment on pending litigation.

Rogish did not return calls from ABC News requesting comment after the suit was filed. Frostburg State University told ABC News last week it had no comment.

Derek’s family is seeking at least $1 million in damages but they said the lawsuit is about seeking justice for their son.

“This is not about healing, or comfort or money. It’s about justice for Derek and it’s about protecting other athletes,” Kristen Sheely said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


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