07/24/2013 02:05 pm ET Updated Jul 24, 2013

Jonathan Willard, NFL Rookie, Saves Family, Dog From Burning Car

An NFL rookie has been dubbed a hero after he rescued a family and their dog from a burning car this week.

Former Clemson University player Jonathan "Tig" Willard was driving from South Carolina to the Titans' training camp in Tennessee Tuesday when he spotted a smoking car on the highway.

"I saw this car in front of me and it had all kinds of black smoke coming out of it," Willard told, a site that covers Clemson sports news.

Driving up to the burning car, Willard, who signed a free agent contract with the Titans after the 2013 NFL draft, said he had to persuade the driver to stop and evacuate the vehicle.

"When she pulled over, the car was really on fire at that point," Willard told "The driver, she acted like she was in some kind of daze or something. She told me that she didn't stop because she didn't think it was her car that was on fire. Another guy stopped, and we managed to get the kids and the dog out and get them to safety, and then I finally got the woman out."

In an interview with ABC News affiliate WPDE-TV, Willard "pure adrenaline" coursed through his veins as he handled the dramatic situation.

"[There were] lives really on the line," he said, adding that it was an incident that he will not soon forget.

This isn't the first time that an NFL player has made headlines for his heroism. In November, Martellus Bennett, who was then tight end for the New York Giants, rescued a fan who almost fell 15 feet from a railing at MetLife Stadium.

"I caught him, I saved his life. I tapped into my inner superhero, which I do have," he told USA Today after the incident. "I'm usually a ninja, but my Spidey-senses told me he was going to take a fall, so I saved his life."

Listen to audio from Willard's WPDE-TV interview in the video below:



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