Jonathan Willard saves family from burning car

Posted By VERONICA LINARES, UPI.com   |   July 25, 2013 at 7:11 AM  |  Updated July 25, 2013 at 7:41 AM   |   Comments

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July 25 (UPI) -- Tennessee Titans rookie Jonathan "Tig" Willard became a real-life hero Tuesday after saving a family and their dog from a burning car.

Willard was heading to South Carolina on Interstate 40 to report to the Titan's training camp in Nashville when he noticed a car burning on the highway.

"I saw this car in front of me, and it had all kinds of black smoke coming out of it," Willard told TigerNet.com. "I tried to speed up and get up next to the car to let them know the car was on fire."

The former Clemson linebacker said he pulled beside the burning vehicle and honked to alert the driver, who was inside the car with three kids and a dog, that her car was on fire.

"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 pulled out the mother and two of the children before a second man stopped to help. The man rescued the third child and the family's dog and the two were able to recover the woman's purse and some bags before the SUV exploded.

According to Willard, the car "went up quickly." He added that he was happy to have taken the family 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," he told the website.

A report from the Tennessee Highway Patrol shows the SUV belonging to Cheri Hubbard of South Dakota, Fla. caught fire and burned near mile marker 340 on Tuesday.

The spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, Dalya Qualls, said witnesses had helped before authorities arrived and that Hubbard was not able to get the names of the men who helped her.

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