CLEVELAND — On Wednesday night, a fire swept through a house on the 4100 block of East 173rd Street, trapping a man inside his home. That's when members of the Cleveland Rams semi-pro football team practicing at nearby Roye Kidd Field sprang into action.
As smoke and flames erupted, team members rushed over and rescued the resident, a 59-year-old man. That man's neighbor, LaBrendt Reese, spoke to News 5 shortly after.
"Those guys are real heroes," Reese said. "The Cleveland Rams, the semi-pro team, the owner of the Cleveland Rams, and the other guys on the team saved that man's life today...those are the real heroes."
Reese said the family who lived at the house are staples of the community who have lived there a very long time. He said he was heading out and then saw smoke billowing from the neighbor's house and several men carrying his neighbor to safety.
"They were willing to go back into the house," Reese said of the Rams players.
Watch the fire and aftermath in the player below:
The Rams practice at the nearby field every Wednesday. Randy Knight, the team owner, explained team members smelled the smoke before he spotted it. Several members quickly climbed a nearly 20-foot tall concrete barrier and chain link fence.
“We just all had the same motive without even speaking. No one said, ‘Oh jump the gate.’ We just jumped the gate,” he said.
Diontez May, who's played wide receiver, defensive back and back-up quarterback for the Rams over the past six years, was one of the first players to scale the high fence.
"We saw this hand waving like he’s trying to get someone’s attention. Then he just fell, like he just collapsed,” May said.
May pulled the nearly unconscious man through the front door of the house. Then he and two teammates carried him across the street to safety.
“We have an EMS person and a nurse who’s on our team, who started to work on him, make sure he was fine,” Knight explained.
After rescuing the man, the team asked Reese if there was anyone still in the house. Several players, including Bijon Walker, the team's quarterback, defensive end and wide receiver, rushed to evacuate other nearby neighbors.
“Once I finally got over [the fence], I alerted Randy which street this was happening on, then I went over to make sure there was nobody in this house. Then I went across the street to the lady over here and made sure she was alerted of the situation,” Walker said.
Neighbors and first responders were quick to hail the group heroes.
"God sent them. It's a blessing that they came," Reese said. "It's a blessing."
The team, however, is reluctant to accept the hero moniker. Many of the players, who coach youth teams and strive to set a positive example in the community said it simply felt like the right thing to do.
“With a lot of negativity going on in our community, it’s good to know we still have a lot of good people willing to do a lot of good things,” Walker said.
“We’re about the community work anyway, so that’s something we pride ourselves on - being able to help people and things in the community," Knight added. "To be able to save a life on a random Wednesday was amazing to us. That’s something we’re always going to talk about, something that’s always going to be part of our legacy as a team.”
Firefighters arrived and knocked down the flames. EMS later transported the man to South Pointe Hospital for treatment. He was last known to be in stable condition, authorities said. The team plans to offer him free tickets to their first game on May 7th.
The fire remains under investigation.
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