The heroic actions of a Texas high school student in the wake of Tropical Depression Imelda caught the attention of NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson, gaining the teen a special invitation.
Tropical Storm Imelda hit southeast Texas late last week and dropped over 24 inches of rain between Houston and Beaumont, according to NASA.
After the torrential rain subsided, however, the region was plagued with destructive and fatal floodwaters.
Five deaths have been attributed to the sweeping floods, according to the Houston Chronicle, but thanks to a quick-acting high school football player, a toddler and her mother weren’t included in that number.
Vinitta Williams was driving her 2-year-old daughter, Ava, home from preschool when the rising water levels became too much for her SUV, she told KHOU-TV.
After her car was swept into a drainage ditch, water began to seep inside. Williams said she grabbed Ava out of her car seat, opened the door and tried to swim to safety, but the current was too strong and they were soon being pulled under.
Thankfully, teen Jayden Payne and his mother weren’t far away. The two watched in horror as Williams struggled to get out of her SUV and stay afloat.
“The whole street was just submerged with water,” the high schooler recalled. “I hear my mom screaming, ‘No, no! Someone stop her! Get out of the car! Get out of the car!’ I just started seeing it sink. I was like, oh my God.”
Payne, a junior tight end and linebacker at Aldine High School, couldn’t just stand by. He quickly jumped into the floodwaters to help the mother and her toddler, and managed to pull them to dry land.
“I hurried up, threw my jacket off, I threw my shirt off,” he told the Chronicle. “I ran over there across in front of all the cars. I didn’t care if all the cars stopped or not because I was more worried about their safety than my safety.”
Williams recognized that if Payne hadn’t come to her rescue, she and her daughter would not have made it.
“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” she told KHOU. “If he wouldn’t have jumped in that water and pulled us out, we would not be here.”
The teen’s heroic actions gained the attention of not only his local football coach but also the Houston Texans’ star quarterback.
Mustang football player Jayden Payne jumped into the water to help save a woman and her toddler when the car they were in went into the ditch running beside Aldine HS. Great job Jayden…and the 2 other men who risked their lives to help another! @AldineHS_AISD @AldineISD pic.twitter.com/dyCWoCsx7l
— @GungHoMustangs (@gunghomustangs) September 19, 2019
Watson tweeted after hearing about Payne’s life-saving efforts, calling him “a real-life hero.”
He also invited the teen to be the team’s special guest for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers at NRG Stadium.
— Deshaun Watson (@deshaunwatson) September 23, 2019
Although he is being called a hero, Payne said it was just the right thing to do.
“I had to make sure two of God’s children didn’t die at an early age,” he said, according to the Chronicle.
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