New England Patriots reserve offensive tackle Justin Herron was honored as a hero by the Tempe (Arizona) Police Department on Wednesday for helping to stop an attempted sexual assault in a park four days earlier.
Police said a 30-year-old suspect was seen Saturday pushing a 71-year-old retired teacher to the ground. That's when Herron and a second man, Murry Rogers, intervened.
Herron, a 2020 sixth-round pick out of Wake Forest who played in 12 games last season (six starts), has been training in Arizona.
"We are here to honor two good Samaritans that intervened during this vicious attack and detained the suspect until police could arrive and make sure that he was taken into custody," Detective Natalie Barela of the Tempe Police Department said at a news conference. "If not for the swift actions of Mr. Justin Herron and Mr. Murry Rogers, this vicious attack could've been much worse."
Said police Chief Jeff Glover: "The impact they've had on our victim's life; these two individuals stepped forward and truly saved her life."
Barela said the victim has experienced "a significant amount of trauma, but she is working through some of these things and physically doing OK."
Herron, 25, and Rogers were presented with an "Outstanding Citizen" certificate by police at Wednesday's news conference. Herron said he heard screaming in the park and reacted.
"You see it in movies and TV all the time, but you never think it's going to happen in real life until it does. In that moment, I was in shock," Herron said.
"It was 11, in the middle of the day, not one cloud in the sky and in a very open field. The fact it happened there, at that time, was very shocking. In the moment, I wish I could tell you what I was thinking. I just knew someone just needed help. All I could do was just rush myself over there to make sure I could help the victim and make sure I could comfort her and be the best person I can be."
Herron, who is 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds and set the Wake Forest record with 51 games started in his college career, said his size helped.
"I'm a football player, so I'm kind of big," Herron said. "I try not to be too aggressive with people knowing I could potentially hurt somebody. I do have a very loud voice, so all I did was just yell, tell him to get off her, and then yanked him off. And I told him to sit down and wait until the cops come."
Police said the victim has since met with Herron and Rogers and "there was not a dry eye in the room."