Up Next

Get Lifted

Chicago Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman performs Heimlich maneuver on lawyer

Lunch at a Texas airport turns into a lifesaving mission

Chicago Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman is being hailed as a hero after performing the Heimlich maneuver on a choking man in an Austin, Texas, airport.

Freeman stopped at an eatery in the airport to grab lunch and noticed a man sitting at a table on his phone and seemingly in a hurry to eat and catch his flight.

“The next thing I know, the guy stands up abruptly and he runs around the table,” Freeman told TMZ. “A lady looks at him like, ‘What’s wrong with you? Are you choking?’ ”

Marcus Ryan, an Austin attorney, had been eating a brisket meal when he began to choke. The distressed Ryan couldn’t talk, but he pointed to his mouth and throat to signal that he was having trouble breathing. Freeman left his table to offer assistance. He learned about the Heimlich maneuver from his mom, who is a nurse (although he had no formal training) and began to perform the motion in an effort to clear Ryan’s windpipe.

“I hit him twice with it, and I put him down to ask him if he was OK,” Freeman said. “He was like, ‘I think it’s still in there.’ He was able to talk now.”

The 6-foot, 236-pound Freeman grabbed Ryan and performed the maneuver two more times until food began to come up and airflow was restored.

“I tried to squeeze the life out of him and bring him back,” Freeman said. “He said, ‘Man, I thought you may have broken one of my ribs.’ I was like, it was either one of your ribs or your life. You gotta take one and leave the other.”

Afterward, the two posed for a picture that Freeman posted to his Twitter page. “CRAZY!!” the caption started. “Just saved my guy Marcus Ryan’s life by using the Heimlich maneuver in the middle of the Austin airport! WOW. Mom would be proud, haha.”

“At the time, it was just something that needed to be done,” Freeman told the media at Bears training camp. “… Somebody was in need, and I was there. If I wasn’t there, I’m sure somebody else would’ve done it. Or I would hope. … We’ve been able to talk back and forth. He’s still thanking me. I just let him know, hey, anybody would’ve done it, hopefully. It’s humanity, man, is what it is.”

After the ordeal, Ryan finished his brisket before heading to his destination. It’s a day he’ll never forget.

“I will forever be grateful for his kindness and willingness to help a stranger,” Ryan told ABC News. “… A great person like him deserves to have a great season, and I’ll be rooting for him.”

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.