WILLIS, Texas -- Six players kicked off the Willis High School varsity football team after giving blood have been reinstated, but they lost their starting positions, KPRC Local 2 reported Tuesday.
The football players said head coach Mack Malone kicked them off the team after he saw them giving blood at a school blood drive right before practice on Monday.
"The first thing (the coach) said was, 'You're off the team. Your career at Willis High School is over,'" football player Phillip McKenna said.
The players said they went to their lockers to get ready for practice, but they were told to leave.
"We were all ready for practice," player Jeff Chachem said. "We were going out to practice and all of our stuff was taken out of our lockers and we were told to go home, that we were done playing football."
Malone, who has refused to comment, apologized to the players and their parents on Tuesday but issued a punishment to the players for missing Monday's practice.
"Everybody makes mistakes and he certainly has had to apologize for things. We've had to apologize for things. I think we can take it one day at a time from here," mother Alice Hill said.
The school district said it was a lack of communication.
"He overreacted. He wasn't using the thought process that he tries to teach his kids and thinking things through. It never was about giving blood. It was about coming to practice a little bit late," said Brian Zemlick, the Willis Independent School District superintendent.
"We did lose our starting positions," Chachem said. "We do have to work and run to get them back, so it's still showing that we're being punished."
The players will also not be allowed to participate in the team's next game on Friday.
Parents said their children should not be punished for giving the gift of life.
"I don't think they should have to earn their positions back," parent Theresa Scott said. "They worked all year to get that position and now they're going to take it away. I feel like they're still being punished."
The players said they are happy to be back on the team but wish things could return to normal.
"I'm not going to be able to look at him the same way," player Garrett Scott said. "The way he treated all six of us wasn't fair at all."
Some of the players are seniors, and the final three games of the season were their last chance to try to secure a college scholarship.
"I haven't missed one practice," player Jason Olner said. "Even when I was injured, I was out there trying to get better. It's been my life."
Football is not just another sport in Willis. Parents said the games are the highlight of their week and their children's dreams.
"I just want to play my last three high school games as a senior," Olner said.