Heading into yesterday Jonathan “Tig” Willard was known around Tennessee as the undrafted rookie linebacker who was trying to make the Titans. Now, after pulling a woman, three children and a dog from a burning SUV on I-40 in Tennessee yesterday afternoon while he was on his way to training camp, Willard will now be known as a hero and as someone who reacts well under pressure.
“I saw this car in front of me, and it had all kinds of black smoke coming out of it,” Willard told TigerNet.com, which covers Clemson athletics. “I tried to speed up and get up next to the car to let them know the car was on fire.”
Willard, who signed with the Titans as an undrafted free agent, told the website he pulled beside the car and honked his horn to get the driver’s attention.
“When she pulled over, the car was really on fire at that point,” Willard told TigerNet.com. “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.”
Willard said on Wednesday that he handed an infant to the woman before rescuing the second child. By this time another man had stopped to help Willard and the family out, rescuing the third child and the dog. The two men were able to grab the woman’s purse and a couple of bags before the SUV burst into flames. Willard stuck around until the firefighters arrived and put out the fire.
Based on how fast the car went up in flames, it’s a good thing that Willard reacted the way he did. If he had gone on with his day and left the smoking car on the road it could have been a tragic ending for everyone who was inside 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,” he told the website.