A former high school football player and former Marine made the catch of his life when he made a diving grab to save a toddler dropped from a burning building in the city of Phoenix, Arizona.
When 28-year-old Phillip Blanks arrived on the scene July 3, he saw two children, a 3-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl, trapped in the blaze.
To save her toddler, the mother was preparing to throw him from a narrow third-story apartment balcony engulfed in flames.
Barefoot while working out nearby with a friend, Blanks ran to the scene upon hearing all the noise, forgetting his shoes.
"I saw another guy was standing there ready to catch the boy, but he didn't look like he was going to do it, so I stepped in front of him," Blanks said, describing the heroic rescue that was captured on cellphone video.
The former wide receiver at Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan is also a retired U.S. Marine. Both experiences that, he says, taught him to "always be on high alert, not be complacent, and to have discipline."
"Ultimately, this is my job," said Blanks, who is now a security guard. "It was all fast, it was a blur. It was tunnel vision as I was running. I didn't see anything but the baby."
Another bystander at the scene, D'Artagnan Alexander, 42, who was on his way to work at a nearby barbershop, ran inside the building and through the flames to save the 8-year-old girl.
"I have a 3-year-old and a 9-year-old, so when I heard there were kids in there, that really hit my heart," Alexander told The Washington Post , which reports that more than 100 firefighters arrived to find eight apartment units engulfed in flames.
Local news reports say the fire is under police investigation, but that foul play is not suspected.
The boy and girl remain hospitalized with critical but non-life-threatening injuries. Their mother, identified by Phoenix TV station 12NEWS as 30-year-old Rachel Long, died as a result of the fire.
The "real hero of the story," is the mother, Blanks said. "She made the ultimate sacrifice to save her children."
Blanks and Alexander on Wednesday met with the children's father, Corey Long, who was at work when the blaze broke out. The men said Long, who had told news outlets he is not yet ready to speak publicly, expressed extreme gratitude for their acts of heroism.
A GoFundMe page has been launched to help the family with medical bills and other expenses.