New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork is being praised this week not only for his team’s brutal beating of the Indianapolis Colts, but also for his actions off the field. After the game, in the early hours of Monday morning, the big fella helped a woman out of her overturned car. He played it down, recalling that the woman in the car was alive and moving, and that all he did was help the officer on the scene and talk the woman out of her car.
The occupant of the car was charged with driving under the influence and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. The charges obviously suck, but it could have been much worse. She may have to deal with a fine or whatever someone gets for drunk driving in Massachusetts but she still got to meet Vince Wilfork. It would have been funny if she was a Colts fan, but ESPN indicates she was wearing a Pats jersey when the accident took place. Police also claim she had ingested nine beers prior to her accident.
Had the accident been more serious, Wilfork’s experience could have been very different. An overturned car could have been much more serious than it was and had that been the case, Wilfork may have had to save a life. Athletes, are at the end of the day, people and as such, they occasionally come into contact with others in their moment of peril. It has happened quite a few times where athletes have been required to save lives, the following are these stories. Similar stories have been grouped together.
10. Saved People From Drowning: Nomar Garciaparra, Leonard Pope and Joe Delaney
Anyone who has ever been down at the bottom of a pool and felt an urgent need to come up for air should know how uncomfortable drowning could be. Breathing is pretty great, but not having that ability and slowly drifting into the abyss would not by my ideal way to go. These three athletes saved people from such a fate.
Back in 2005, Nomar Garciaparra, the former Red Sox shortstop was visiting with his uncle in Boston when the two heard some commotion coming from the harbor. Two women had fallen in the water and one had sustained a head injury during her fall. He hopped in and saved both women, who were taken to hospital and survived.
Leonard Pope, a former tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, was with friends one summer afternoon in Georgia, when tragedy struck. The son of one of his friends had gone under the surface and was unable to surface. Pope jumped in and saved the six year old. He was reported to have been the only swimmer at the get-together that day.
While Garciaparra and Pope lived to tell their stories, along with those they rescued, not all stories have beautiful endings. Joe Delaney was a 24 year old running back for the Kansas City Chiefs back in the early 1980’s. In the summer of ’83, Delaney came upon a scene in which three children were struggling and screaming for help in a pond. Despite his own inability to swim, he rushed in to help them. Delaney and two of the children died while the third lived. He was honored posthumously by Ronald Reagan with the Presidential Citizen Medal.
9. Mike Danton
This is an interesting case of redemption. Mike Danton was an NHL player and played for the New Jersey Devils and the St. Louis Blues in the early 2000’s. In 2004, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder after hiring a hit-man (who turned out to be a cop) to kill his agent, although others speculated that it was a cover up and he had wanted his father or both his parents killed.
Danton served about five years and was released in 2009. He returned to the world of hockey and signed with a team in Sweden. While playing there, a teammate, Marcus Bengtsson was hit, fell to the ice hard, and started to convulse. Danton had taken some first aid training while in prison and used his hand to prevent Bengtsson from choking on his tongue (a danger when a person is having a convulsive seizure). The medical community weighed in days later to say his technique was off, but had he done nothing, his linemate could have died.
8. Martellus Bennett
Bennett, the tight end for the Chicago Bears, who formerly played for the Cowboys and Giants, is known for being a funny guy off the field and for actually saving a life. In November 2012, while Bennett was still with the New York Giants, he was handing a pair of his gloves to some kids after defeating the Green Bay Packers. An older fan went to grab the gloves, missed and tumbled over the railing. Bennett caught him after a brief fall.
For the record, this man may not have died or even sustained serious injury as his fall would have been just around 10-12 feet, but had he fallen on his neck or head, all bets are off. For our purposes, Bennett saved a life.
7. Choking Victims: Tony Gonzalez, Todd Frazier and Mark Asper
In another three athlete category, these three were eating when they had to spring into action. Mark Asper, a guard for the Oregon Ducks back in 2011, saved a fellow diner during the traditional Beef Bowl, before the Rose Bowl. The man was choking, Asper grabbed him, performed the Heimlich and shrugged it off, moving back to his own meal. Former tight end (possibly the greatest ever) Tony Gonzalez, had a similar event back in 2008, during which he had to save a man who was choking and couldn’t breathe. Todd Frazier, then a rookie in MLB, had to save a man who he described as “a little obese” who had “taken a big bite of steak.”
What have we learned kids? Chew your food.
6. Erron Kinney
Firefighters are big, strong dudes with no fear and who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. The pay might not be the same but similar skills used on the gridiron can be used to fight fires and keep the public safe. Erron Kinney, who played tight end (another tight end, these guys are real heroes) for the Tennessee Titans for six years, was a firefighter after and during his NFL career.
Apart from the fact that he keeps the public safe on a daily basis, he rescued a fellow firefighter from a blaze back when he was a sophomore at the University of Florida. He became the Deputy Chief in Hickman County, Tennessee after retiring from the NFL.
5. Danous Estenor
Danous Estenor was a guard for the University of South Florida and was signed by the Indianapolis Colts in 2013. He has yet to dress for any NFL games but he surely has one fan for life. That fan is Pedro Arzola, a tow truck driver in Tampa Bay who was stuck under the rear wheel of a Cadillac. Two others were trying frantically to lift the car off of Arzola, but with Estenor’s help they succeeded, allowing the tow truck driver to be dragged out from under the car. “Hysterical Strength” is what it is colloquially referred to. For our purposes, it was just an offensive lineman who saw a man in distress while on his way for a snack.
4. Pat Tillman and Barney Ross: War Heroes
The words “war hero” are under some scrutiny right now, given some of the controversy surrounding the left, the right, and the Clint Eastwood movie American Sniper. For the purposes of this list, Pat Tillman and Barney Ross are war heroes, and have saved lives while putting their own on the line. Pat Tillman was widely known as a caring leader among his platoon mates and at least one recall him saving their life on the day he lost his own. Obviously there is great speculation regarding Tillman’s death and whether it was friendly fire or an ambush, but his fellow soldiers do recall his actions that day and some consider him to be their savior.
Barney Ross is somewhat less well-known than Tillman, and no, this is not Stallone’s character in The Expendables. This Barney Ross was a world champion boxer who fought in World War II. He participated in the battle of Guadalcanal and while three of his squad were wounded, he held off over two dozen Japanese attackers. Two died but he carried the third, who was significantly heavier, to safety.
3. C.J. Leslie
C.J. Leslie was a basketball player for North Carolina State when he saved a young man’s life. Leslie went undrafted in the 2013 NBA draft, but has since gone to play in Korea. In January 2013, after NC had beaten Duke, students, along with Will Privette, stormed the court. Privette, being in a wheelchair, joined with his fellow students, but fell from his chair and was in danger of being trampled. Leslie waded through the crowd, picked up Privette and helped him find his wheelchair. It all could have been much worse, but it just turned out to be an adorable story. Black Friday shoppers could learn a thing or two from Leslie.
2. Paul Worrilow and Chris Seitz
They play two different sports but Atlanta Falcons’ linebacker Paul Worrilow and FC Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz have something very profound in common. Both have saved a life. Neither had to administer the Heimlich nor did they have to drag someone out of a body of water. They donated bone marrow to strangers. In layman’s terms, a number of serious diseases require bone marrow donation, but being a match is rare. Worrilow and Seitz never met the patients they helped, nor do we know for sure whether they lived, but they both made sacrifices in hopes of saving a life. For that reason, they absolutely make the list.
1. Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali was a legendary trash talker, but back in 1981 he used his diction and eloquence to save a life. A young man who was suffering from psychiatric difficulties was threatening to jump from his ninth story window. After police, negotiators and psychiatrists had failed to talk the man down, Ali climbed out an adjacent window, and talked to the young man until he agreed not to end his life. He’s always had the gift of gab and this time, he used it to prolong this man’s life.
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