Doug Brenner knew something was wrong when he awoke from a nap and felt as though he couldn’t move.

When he went to the bathroom, Brenner said, his urine was black, the color of Coca-Cola. His arms were so swollen that he could barely brush his teeth.

Brenner, an offensive lineman on the Oregon football team, consulted a team doctor, who told him to head for the hospital immediately. There, Brenner said, doctors told him his organs were shutting down and his life was in danger.

“All three of us guys who were hospitalized were almost dead,” Brenner said.

Brenner and two other Oregon players, tight end Cam McCormick and offensive lineman Sam Poutasi, were hospitalized in January 2017 after a series of strenuous workouts directed by then-strength coach Irele Oderinde.

Brenner and Poutasi are now suing the university, Oderinde, former coach Willie Taggart and the NCAA for negligence, seeking a combined $16.5 million in separate lawsuits related to the long-term effects of rhabdomyolysis, the exercise-related illness they say resulted in permanent injuries.

McCormick, a sophomore from Bend, announced Saturday on Twitter he will not pursue a lawsuit.

"I respect my teammates immensely and their very difficult decision to pursue that path," McCormick wrote. "I love the University of Oregon, my coaches/teammates, and the experiences I have had as a student-athlete."

Brenner, who is seeking $11.5 million in damages, said he decided to move forward with a lawsuit after recent tests revealed long-term kidney damage that could shorten his life by 10 years or more.

“Because of those results, and because my life will be shorter because of those results, I decided that I needed to take action, partially for me but mainly to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other kids along the line,” Brenner said Thursday, speaking from the office of his Portland-based attorney.

Lawsuits from Brenner and Poutasi have brought renewed scrutiny to the workout incident and the university’s response. The players say they were forced to perform hundreds of push-ups and another rigorous strength training exercise without rest and with no water readily available on the first day of winter workouts, causing some players to vomit and at least one to pass out.

Kicker Aidan Schneider was in the same workout group with Brenner and Poutasi and confirmed Brenner’s account of the incident.

“Doug’s description is very accurate as far as I remember,” said Schneider, who graduated after the 2017 season. “I think what a lot of people were thinking is, ‘This is ridiculous.’”

According to the players’ accounts, the group was forced to perform a series of exercises in unison. If any player faltered or had imperfect form, the entire group was forced to repeat the exercise.

Though players technically had the option to tap out, Schneider said anyone who stopped would have been subjected to ridicule from coaches.

“Whether it was specifically said or not, they were trying to weed people out,” Schneider said. “I’m sure they said they told guys they could stop if they need to, but when it comes in form of, ‘When it gets tough, go ahead and quit on your teammates like you did last year,’ that’s not exactly a cushy invitation.”

Taggart apologized for the incident, and Oderinde was suspended a month without pay. But according to Poutasi’s lawsuit, the team was told that Taggart and Oderinde had not acted improperly following the university’s investigation.

Schneider said workouts with Oderinde were vastly different after the incident, but coaches continued a practice known as “dawn patrol,” in which players who broke team rules were required to show up early at the practice field and push a weight plate in crawling position as punishment.

The NCAA sports medicine handbook cautions against using exercise as punishment, and NCAA rules require that all workouts be included in a team’s countable practice hours. Dawn patrols eventually stopped, Schneider said, and players who broke rules were required to spend Friday nights at the football facility instead.

At Florida State, where Taggart finished 5-7 in his first season, it appears the dawn patrols have continued. Defensive end Brian Burns told The Tallahassee Democrat in July that summer workouts with Oderinde were mandatory, and anyone who showed up late to practice was required to push a 45-pound weight 20 yards up and down the field, repeating it 20 times within a given time limit.

“You can’t make any excuses,” Burns said. “You either get there or you get there. You’ve only got one choice. If you don’t, this is not an option, but if you don’t, you’ve got a punishment and it’s nothing you want to be a part of, let me tell you that.”

Several Oregon players defended Taggart and Oderinde on social media after the weight room incident, sending messages with the hashtag “#freecoachO” and downplaying media reports about the workouts. Brenner said he felt “ostracized” from the team when he returned, made worse because he was unable to lift weights or condition for several months.

Schneider said he was bothered by fans' backlash directed at the hospitalized players.

“There was a divide in the way people viewed the situation,” Schneider said. “We had some investigations and stuff going on, people coming in to talk to us and try to get the real story.

“What frustrated me is there were some people saying these guys were just out of shape. What a lot of people didn’t realize is the ball stops with the coaches.”

Brenner said he never considered leaving the team, but his senior season didn’t go as planned. He developed hip problems and appeared in only seven games before undergoing career-ending surgery.

“I had high aspirations for my senior season, and this ruined that,” Brenner said.

The decision to sue his alma mater wasn’t easy, Brenner said. He recently completed a master’s degree in conflict and dispute resolution from the UO and still considers himself a huge Duck fan.

“It was really tough,” Brenner said. “I had the times of my life at Oregon and experiences I couldn’t have had anywhere else, winning the Rose Bowl and going to the first (College Football Playoff) national championship.”

Brenner said he hopes his lawsuit will force the NCAA to look more closely at unregulated workouts and develop rules to prevent future cases of exercise-related illness.

Twenty-six NCAA football players died from non-traumatic causes between 2000 and 2017, according to a report from CBS Sports. Adding to that total was Jordan McNair, an offensive lineman from Maryland who died of heatstroke in June during preseason workouts.

“It’s terrible that the NCAA makes billions of dollars every year while its unpaid players are getting sent to the hospital every year and having permanent life damage, and they aren’t getting compensated for that in any way,” Brenner said. “Our main goal is to hold these universities, these coaches and the NCAA accountable and actually regulate these workouts so no students have to go through this again.”