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Mr. Buchanan witnessed multiple occasions in practice when Mr. Sweitzer, the team’s trainer, suggested that Mr. Schumacher ratchet down contact.

“Hell, no, he didn’t listen,” Mr. Buchanan says.

Mr. Schumacher’s LinkedIn profile lists his job as “Ball Security Expert.” The 20-something coach played linebacker at Marietta College in Ohio and coached for Thiel College in Greenville, Pa., before arriving at Frostburg State in 2010. He brought a record of collisions with law enforcement.

Mr. Schumacher was arrested multiple times in Marietta from 2005 to 2009 on charges including possession of drugs, assault and trespassing. He pleaded guilty or no contest in Marietta Municipal Court to four charges, including disorderly conduct in 2007 and 2009.

In March 2011, Penn State Police arrested Mr. Schumacher for driving under the influence for the second time since 2007. Last year, he pleaded guilty to a high-rate DUI in the case because his blood alcohol content was between 0.10 percent and 0.16 percent.

Players didn’t know any of this. Neither did the Sheelys. The university called it a personnel issue.

“I guess he had some kind of ego or something,” Mr. Buchanan says of the coach. “He had to prove something. He had to be the best. He did push us hard. That’s the thing. There was way too much hitting.”

The anonymous email to the Sheelys echoed the concern.

“There were many players on that team who had tweaked hamstrings, ankles and headaches,” the email says, “and even though the trainers told us to report everything, Schumacher as well as Rogish would tell us not to.”

These weren’t like the peewee football days when Derek set up lawn chairs in the backyard to rehearse plays and wore Steve Young’s No. 8 jersey to each practice in hopes of grabbing the attention of coaches. But Derek smashed through the drills without complaint. He developed a reputation among teammates for not going down. Even as a child, the lone time his parents recalled a fuss was over a stomach ache that turned out to be appendicitis in seventh grade.

In a 2010 video shot by roommate and former teammate Dwayne Washington, Derek called football “the greatest game invented on the face of the earth.” The commitment extended to the rock that players touch outside Frostburg State's field before each practice or game.

“We’re giving everything we have, whether it’s in practice or in a game,” Derek says in the video. “If a person isn’t going to give everything they have, they need to keep their hands off the rock.”

According to the lawsuit, Mr. Sweitzer bandaged Derek’s bleeding forehead Aug. 20, didn’t check for a concussion (Frostburg State’s concussion policy mandates that players undergo three baseline tests before the season) and returned him to practice.

Through a university representative, Mr. Rogish, Mr. Schumacher and Mr. Sweitzer declined to comment. All remain employed by the university in the same positions.

The next day, Derek’s head started bleeding again during The Drill. Another bandage.

Story Continues →