Ohio Dominican football coach Bill Conley wore a superhero's outfit to a pep rally, then later that night saved a player who was choking on some food.

Who says superheroes such as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are only products of a writer's colorful imagination?

Meet "Panther Man," also known as Ohio Dominican football coach Bill Conley.

On Friday, Conley surprised everyone at a homecoming pep rally at ODU's Alumni Gymnasium by hopping off a golf court driven by an assistant coach and leading cheers in a demonstrative fashion.

The 65-year-old was dressed in a gold cape, headband and wristbands with ribbon dangling, with black football pants and an ODU athletic shirt.

"That was my idea - I went old-school," Conley said. "I did that a lot during homecoming when I was a high-school coach. One time I showed up on a motorcycle. At Middletown High School, I came down all dressed up from the rope they climb up for phys. ed. (classes). I've dressed up like Dick Tracy and Batman."

Sports information director Scott Miles said Conley's entrance was something that people pay a lot of money to see on pay-per-view or in person.

"Coach looked like he was a wrestler in an entrance during WWE Wrestlemania," Miles said. "He had eye black on and was waving this Ohio Dominican flag. I thought he was going to do an elbow drop on somebody in the band."

Players have sprinted to postgame huddles at midfield knowing Conley often will blurt out something outrageous before sending them off to the locker room.

"I'm just a crazy fool," Conley said.

Panther Man, though, was a real-life hero later that day when the team was having dinner. Teammates began to smack a player on the back after he began to choke on food.

"I looked over and I didn't know if the player was coughing or choking," junior defensive lineman Paul Wesselhoeft said. "I started patting him on the back to see if that would help. Then coach Conley walks over and says, 'I've got this.' He performed the Heimlich maneuver and this pretty good-sized chunk of food came flying out. I felt pretty useless.'"

The players stood and began chanting "Panther Man."

Conley commented like a modest superhero would.

"I'm just glad it was nothing more than that," he said.

The weekend ended with a 48-26 victory over Lake Erie.

mznidar@dispatch.com

@MarkZnidar