A former wide receiver for Saddleback College in Orange County caught a 3-year-old boy who was thrown from a burning building earlier this month.
Phillip Blanks, a 28-year-old football player and former Marine, was visiting a friend in Phoenix, Arizona, on July 3 when he heard cries for help from outside. He thought it was a fight at first, but as he left the building, he heard someone shout “fire,” The Independent reported.
Blanks was barefooted when he arrived below a burning third-story apartment, and he arrived just as a mother tossed her toddler off the patio to the ground below.
Arms open, the former athlete snagged the boy, breaking his fall just inches from the ground.
“He was twirling like a helicopter. When I caught him, he was lightweight honestly,” he told CBS. “His head perfectly fell right here in my elbow. Everything was intact except for his foot, unfortunately.”
The boy and his sister were critically injured but survived the fire. Sadly, the mother succumbed to the blaze, as she was unable to escape after throwing her child to safety.
Without Blanks’s quick action, it could have ended worse.
Afterward, he made it clear that his talent as a football player helped save the boy, as he told ABC: “I know how to catch. I’ve learned how to catch a football. So I’ll give some credit to football.”
His training in the Marines also played a role as well.
He added, “I can definitely credit to the Marine Corps for instilling this good training in me to save a life. I don’t see myself as a hero. A person trained to do my job is trained to protect people.”
In college, Blanks had once played football as a wide receiver in 2016, with aspirations for joining the NFL. Devastatingly, he had to abandon those dreams for personal reasons, he said.
The former player makes an effort to be helpful to others whenever he can, he says, and so he did not hesitate to step in when he heard cries for help. He also devotes time to making a difference in his community; he started his own security company and tries to help local kids stay on track.
“I always put in in my head that if something happens like this wherever I’m at, I’m gonna be the one to save the day,” he told CBS. “That’s just how I think, that’s just how I am. I like to help people.”
After the incident, Blanks told The Independent that he wanted to check up on the two surviving children to see how they are doing.
And despite his heroic act, he ultimately credits the mom who died for saving her son. “She’s the real hero of the story,” the former Marine said. “Because she made the ultimate sacrifice to save her children.”
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