As an offensive lineman, Justin Herron’s job is to protect. When he’s on the field, he prevents the quarterback from being hit by defensive players. He also helps clear the way for the running back. An offensive lineman’s job is unselfish and about putting others first.
Off the field, Justin Herron operates the same way.
On Wednesday, the Tempe Police Department in Arizona honored Herron and Phoenix resident Murry Rogers after the two men had stopped an attempted sexual assault last Saturday. According to the police, a 71-year-old retired teacher was out on her daily walk through a Tempe park when a 30-year-old man attacked her. The woman was seen being pushed to the ground and screaming for help. That's when Herron and Rogers intervened.
Tempe's interim police chief, Jeffrey Glover, presented Herron and Rogers with “Outstanding Citizen” certificates during a press conference on Wednesday.
"It was something that I never dreamed or I thought I would see, you know," Herron said during the press conference. "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 shocked. It was 11 a.m. It was in the middle of the day, not one cloud in the sky and in a very open field. It was just the fact that it had happened there at that time was just very, very shocking."
Herron, who is 6 feet 5 inches tall, weighs 305 pounds and is in his second year with the Patriots, called the scene “terrifying.” He was taking a walk in the park at the time. Rogers was there for his daughter's birthday party. When they heard the screams, both Good Samaritans ran toward the assault. Herron screamed at the man, told him to stop and pulled him off the victim. Rogers kept the suspect from fleeing the scene while Herron then consoled the victim.
"If not for the swift actions of Mr. Justin Herron and Mr. Murry Rogers, this vicious attack could have been much worse," said Tempe Police Detective Natalie Barela.
"The impact they've had on our victim's life," Glover said, "these two individuals stepped forward and truly saved her life."
The victim, Barela said, has experienced "a significant amount of trauma, but she is working through some of these things and physically doing OK." Herron and Rogers both met with the woman this week. The woman called both men “her angels” and it was said that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
"I never thought in a thousand years that I would see her ever again," Herron said, "and a part of me was a little bit upset that I didn't ask for a name just so I could just know the name.
"It was heartwarming to see her, but also gut-wrenching to see how she responded to the trauma and how she's dealing with it. No one should go through that. No one. She has a great support system and I'm glad that she has that support system. It was emotional for me. It was emotional for everybody in the room to see her."