How three Michigan football players helped a hero

By Everett Cook, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 28, 2013

Russell Bellomy thought a semi had just driven by his house. That’s how loud the collision was.

Fifth-year senior offensive tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield heard the bang, too. Upstairs, redshirt sophomore linemen Jack Miller and Graham Glasgow were sleeping, and so were some teammates a few houses down, including redshirt junior linebacker Jake Ryan.

Schofield had just badly beaten Bellomy, a redshirt sophomore quarterback, in a game of NFL Blitz on the house’s Nintendo 64. Lewan and Schofield remember it as Super Smash Bros., but Bellomy is positive it was NFL Blitz.

Outside, last Wednesday, it looked like the beginnings of a tornado, when the sky turns green and the wind begins to whip and there’s a hint of impending fury. There was smoke bellowing out from somewhere down the street, so Lewan and Schofield sprinted over.

Bellomy is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He didn’t sprint to the crash.

The three Wolverines stopped when they found the source of the smoke: a car that plowed into the porch of a house in between theirs and Ryan’s.

The car, going southbound on South State Street, had hit a fire hydrant next to Al Glick Field House — where the football team practices — before careening across two lanes of traffic and hitting a guard wire, the kind that stabilizes power lines. The porch finally stopped the uncontrolled vehicle, and that’s where Lewan, Schofield and Bellomy stepped in.

Lewan and Schofield remember pulling the driver out of the car and putting him on the ground, where he regained consciousness.

The group later found out that that the driver — whose name isn’t available due to privacy laws — is diabetic. He was low on blood sugar and had an uncontrollable coughing attack, which led to a rising heart rate, which led to a blackout and complete loss of control of the car.

The driver, though, remembers coughing, and then waking up on the lawn, according to Bellomy. Nothing in between.

“I really don’t know how the driver managed to miss all those trees, or the house next door full of our teammates or someone walking down the side of the street,” Bellomy said in a phone interview with the Daily on Monday. “He hit a transformer on the power pole that was right on the corner of State and Granger, the transformer blew on that. That pole could have fallen down … I don’t know. I don’t want to say it was fortunate how it worked out, but it could have been a lot worse.”

In the background, the first man on the scene was instructing the burly offensive lineman. He’s a military veteran with more than 15 years in the service and is now an athletic trainer.

Bellomy can remember the face of the man instructing them vividly, and that he was wearing a Boston Red Sox jersey and hat. This was on the same day as Game 1 of the World Series. The man was on his way to see a friend and probably watch the game, driving the opposite way of the crash victim.

But Bellomy never got his name. No one did. Everything was moving too quickly. It was the last thing they were all thinking about.

So next to Lewan and Schofield and Bellomy was this unnamed Red Sox fan, who said he spent more than 15 years in the military, forming a circle of help. When the driver regained consciousness, he told the group that he always keeps a chocolate bar in his trunk, which the military veteran then retrieved.

“He took over and knew exactly what to do,” Schofield said. “We were just there for assistance, I guess. It was pretty nuts though.”

After getting him to eat the chocolate, Bellomy smelled gas. The car was still on, and the key was jammed in the ignition before Lewan pried it out. Still, Bellomy smelled gas.

His thoughts jumped to movies. Gas means explosions. So, he put his arm under the armpit of the driver, and the Red Sox fan went under the other. They moved around the corner to where Ryan and several other Wolverines live, and again placed him on the ground.

Soon after, the wires from the electrical pole went haywire when the transformer box blew up. The lawn lit on fire, as did the sidewalk. Not a huge, raging fire, but a fire nonetheless. The burn scars are still there, on the same sidewalk the Michigan players use to walk to practice every day.

It was Lewan, the tattooed, 6-foot-8, 315-pound All-American tackle, who helped to calm the driver down until the ambulance arrived about 10 minutes after the players reached the scene.

“You know how Taylor is,” Bellomy said. “He can talk to anyone.”

In a Daily article last week, DTE Energy spokeswoman Randi Berris said that the crew checked the broken gas meter, but that the gas line in the house wasn’t activated.

If it was, there could have been an explosion. Big enough to hit other houses, or bystanders or even Bellomy, Lewan and Schofield? Who knows.

Power went out for more than 400 people, but the effects were pretty localized. The field hockey team was in a meeting when the power went out, so they went on a run and saw the crash. Further down State Street at Yost Ice Arena, the power stayed on for the hockey team’s practice.

“I was talking with my family and girlfriend about it,” Bellomy said. “Every three seconds, they think of a new situation where things could have gone worse.”

The football players will get the headlines, even though Bellomy said multiple times that he doesn’t want credit for this. The unnamed man in red is who we should be thanking, he says.

When it all boils down, there are two circles of people in this situation — those who help, and those who don’t. The anonymous man in the Red Sox jersey was in the first group, but any other random person walking down the street that day could have been in the second.

The circle of those who don’t help dwindles, though, with the involvement of three Michigan football players that dropped everything, even their Nintendo controllers, to help someone they had never met.