The title of "hero" is often thrown around freely in the world of sports. On Tuesday, Tennessee Titans linebacker Jonathan Willard truly earned that title.
The 6'2", 225-pound Willard reportedly saved a family from a burning car, according to David Hood of USA Today. The publication tweeted out the story:
Titans' Jonathan Willard saves family from burning car http://t.co/YGPTmuCUev— USA TODAY NFL team (@usatoday_nfl) July 24, 2013
Willard, who signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent out of Clemson after the 2013 NFL draft, told Hood that he spotted a car with black smoke coming out of it while driving from South Carolina to Tennessee for the Titans' upcoming training camp.
Sensing the danger that the woman, three children and dog were in, Willard reportedly sped up, flashed his brights and honked his horn in an attempt to catch the attention of the driver, finally getting her to pull over. From there, the linebacker sprung into action.
When she pulled over, the car was really on fire at that point. 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. 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.
While you'd like to think that it would be common sense to help the family when the car was billowing smoke on the road, Willard told USA Today that several people just passed by without stopping to see what they could do to help.
I was just glad that we got the kids and all of them out of the car. I was thinking that I was just doing what everybody else would do, but there were cars just going past us and no one else was stopping, so I don't know if that is what would happen or not.
As an undrafted free agent, Willard will have to prove himself in training camp and throughout the preseason. The linebacker certainly put together a strong career at Clemson, where he led the team in tackles (85) and tackles for loss (10.5) last season.
In a league that has been criticized of late for an alarming number of player arrests in the offseason, it's nice to see a player be recognized for a positive act of bravery.