Former college footballer makes life-saving catch to rescue boy from fire

The three-year-old was plummeting to the ground when Philip Blanks dived in to catch him.

Firefighters battle a wind-driven wildfire called the Saddle Ridge fire in the early morning hours Friday in Porter Ranch, California, U.S., October 11, 2019. (photo credit: GENE BLEVINS / REUTERS)
Firefighters battle a wind-driven wildfire called the Saddle Ridge fire in the early morning hours Friday in Porter Ranch, California, U.S., October 11, 2019.
(photo credit: GENE BLEVINS / REUTERS)
A former American footballer put his game skills to life-saving use, when he dived in to catch a child being thrown from a burning building.
Video of the astonishing rescue currently circulating on social media shows Philip Blanks, a 28-year-old former college wide receiver and US Marine racing in to save the three-year-old after the boy had been dropped from the third floor amid a huge apartment blaze in Phoenix, Arizona.
Speaking to ABC7, Blanks recalled the moment he went to investigate a commotion outside his building, spotting what was happening just in time. "Instinct. There wasn't much thinking. I just reacted. I just did it," he said, adding: "I know how to catch. I've learned how to catch a football. So I'll give some credit to football."
The video shows the child rapidly plummeting the 20+ foot drop as Blanks races in to make the catch, sliding in just under him as the child reaches ground level.

"He was twirling in the air like a propeller," he recalled. "I just did my best. His head landed perfectly on my elbow. His ankle got twisted up as I was diving. The guy who was there with me - it looked like he wasn't going to catch him. So that's why I stepped in. I just wanted to make a better catch."
Both the three-year-old and his eight-year-old sister were taken to the local hospital, where they were treated for non-life threatening injuries. Sadly, their mother was killed in the fire, rescuing her son in her last moments by flinging him to safety.
His sister had been rescued by neighbors moments earlier, by neighbors who tried to help.
"When we kicked the door down that's when I seen flames come in. That's when I heard the screaming, so I just went into the apartment and grabbed the little girl, and I realized when I dragged her out, she was severely burned from top to bottom," Leonard Thompson told ABC7.
Neighbor Juanita Williams added: "The mother threw the second child over the balcony while she was burning and I saw her in flames, head to toe. She was burning, but she didn't make it out."
"She's the real hero of the story," Blanks said. "Because she made the ultimate sacrifice to save her children."