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Fans gave NFL linebacker Jesse Luketa a lift to the game after he got a flat tire

The Phillips family with their new favorite player, Jesse Luketa.
J.W. Phillips
The Phillips family with their new favorite player, Jesse Luketa.

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Jesse Luketa was stuck at a gas station with less than an hour before he needed to be at the stadium for Sunday's game. He decided to get resourceful.

Who are they? Well, Luketa is a football player from Ottawa. But it was the Phillips family who came to the rescue when he encountered some car troubles.

What's the big deal?

I mean, doesn't it sound like some zany turn of events you'd see in an early 2000s Disney movie about family, friendship and the power of football? Or a Mastercard commercial?
  • Luketa got a flat tire at a gas station in Phoenix with just 45 minutes left to get to the stadium in Glendale for his game last Sunday against the Rams.
  • He realized he'd have to act fast to make it to work on time. That's when he noticed some fans in Cardinals gear at the pump near him, and asked if they'd give him a ride.
  • And they did! Luketa made it to the game, the Phillips family got some free tickets to see their team play again, and yes, the Cardinals did end up losing that day.
  • Luketa runs with teammates during training camp practice in July.
    Ross D. Franklin / AP
    Luketa runs with teammates during training camp practice in July.

    Want more on sports? Listen to Consider This on the controversy with NFL sports betting.

    What did they have to say about it? J.W. Phillips, the father of the clan and the driver of the carpool, spoke with All Things Considered host Juana Summers about the surreal experience.

    On believing Luketa at first:

    Yeah, for sure [I hesitated] a bit because I didn't know him, I'll be very honest. And when I went back to the car my wife said, "Are you sure he plays?" And I was like, "Hey, either way, we're going to give him a ride." And that was it.

    On the ride to the stadium:

    Actually, it was funny. It was probably the most friendly family-of-five-and-a-new-friend conversation you could imagine: "What'd you do for Thanksgiving? Where are you from?" Yes, football came up.

    I think the biggest thing, and I've been telling people this ... is he is just one of the nicest human beings you will ever meet. He is a 6'5, 280-pound linebacker in the NFL. After you talk to him for 10 or 15 seconds, he's the most unintimidating, nicest person you've ever met.

    On what his kids thought:

    It was really cool. My son, Brody, was actually playing at halftime, funny enough, for the local flag league, so that put the cherry on top of it all.

    So, what now?

  • While Phillips and Luketa haven't spoken since that fateful day, Phillips confirmed that Luketa was able to get that pesky tire fixed.
  • In about 36 months, there will probably be a Netflix movie about this chance encounter.
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    Manuela López Restrepo
    Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.