It will be impossible for Jonathan Willard to get lost in the Tennessee Titans shuffle now.
Not that the former Clemson University star football player was in any danger of that before Tuesday night, but pulling a mother, her three children and family dog to safety from a burning vehicle cemented it.
“When she pulled over, the car was really on fire at that point,” the linebacker told reporters after her arrived at training camp on Wednesday.
“The driver, she acted like she was in some kind of daze or something. She told me that she didn’t stop because she didn’t think it was her car that was on fire.”
Willard signed a free-agent contract with the Titans, meaning he’s fighting for a job beside some of his teammates drafted by the team.
At least the Titans have a great indication of his character.
He was driving along Interstate 40 from South Carolina to Tennessee for training camp when he noticed a car trailing black smoke. Upon closer inspection, he saw flames shoot out from behind it, Tigernet.com reported.
“Another guy stopped, and we managed to get the kids and the dog out and get them to safety, and then I finally got the woman out,” Willard said.
Shortly after that, he said the burning SUV exploded four times in quick succession.
“Maybe we need to have him stand up in front of the team and explain what happened so we can start on an obviously very positive note,” head coach Mike Munchak told WKRN TV. “I’m proud of him, and so is the organization, that he got involved in something that could have been bad.”
The woman, who was from Florida, told the TV station she’s thankful Willard decided to act when so many other drivers passed her by.
He declined the “hero” tag and instead said it was God who placed him “there for a reason.”