Commentary

Recruit's timely tackle averts tragedy

Mississippi State commit Kaleb Eulls stops armed student on bus to school

Updated: September 4, 2009, 3:13 PM ET
By Chris Lawlor | ESPN.com

Kaleb Eulls is accustomed to sacking the quarterback to preserve victory, but Tuesday morning he made a life-saving tackle. It wasn't recorded on the field, instead taking place on a Mississippi school bus.

Eulls' quick reaction disarmed a troubled female student who was brandishing a .38 semiautomatic handgun and allowed 22 students and the school bus driver to avoid tragedy.

"You never figure this would ever happen on the [bus] ride to school," Eulls told ESPN.com on Thursday afternoon.

Eulls
Eulls

What started as a typical 1½-hour ride from Eulls' rural home in Pickens to Yazoo County High in Yazoo City, Miss., turned into a courageous moment for a humble hero.

Eulls normally catnaps during the long journey each morning; on Tuesday at 6:52 a.m. CT, he was awakened by his 16-year-old sister, Kimberly, while their two younger sisters, Ashley and Bobbie, watched in disbelief.

"I was out of it, sleeping and listening to music on my iPod when she [Kimberly] told me a girl had a gun. At that point, I thought, 'What now?'"

Once the 14-year-old girl loaded a clip, mayhem ensued. Surveillance video from the bus showed terrified students scattering for the exits, with Eulls, an 18-year-old senior and honor roll student, instinctively springing into action. Eulls opened the emergency door in the rear of the bus, ordering students to exit.

Eulls, 6-feet-4, 255 pounds, then managed to get the girl's attention.

"She was threatening the lives of other kids," he said. "I asked her for the gun but she refused. I was trying to protect the others."

And then came the opening.

Eulls says the girl "glanced away for a half-second."

He floored the girl with a bone-shaking tackle, dislodging the firearm. Eulls retrieved the handgun and quickly exited the bus from the rear.

Talk about an instant classic.

Yazoo County head coach Matt Williams isn't surprised by his star player's actions.

"Kaleb is of high character," Williams said. "For all the accolades he's received, Kaleb is humble; no doubt he's a special, special person."

Eulls isn't your average small-town high school player. He's already accepted an athletic scholarship from Mississippi State and was named to the state's preseason "Dandy Dozen" as one of the best high school football players in Mississippi. Williams called Eulls the program's top all-time player since the school opened in 1995.

Eulls said the Mississippi State coaches have called offering their praise.

"They were excited and proud of me," Eulls said. "They said, 'We're glad to have you in the family and it's great what you would do for others.'''

The Mississippi State Bulldogs are not only getting the No. 51-ranked defensive end, according to ESPNU's Scouts Inc., but a hero.

Eulls' Scouts Inc. evaluation seems prophetic.

"Kaleb is a solid tackler and flashes a knack for popping the ball loose. Eulls is a prospect with some good raw tools. His upside will intrigue some and he could develop into a good college defender."

Yazoo County Sheriff Thomas Vaughan lauded Eulls for acting appropriately.

"He saved no telling how many lives," Vaughan told NBC News. "There may have been a lot of sad families today."

The girl, whose name was not released, is being held at the juvenile detention center and charged with 22 counts of attempted aggravated assault, 22 counts of kidnapping and one count of possession of a firearm on school property, according to police. The suspect, who may be charged as an adult, allegedly was teased by a student Monday, prompting her actions. Police are investigating how she obtained the weapon.

Eulls, who doubles as a left-handed quarterback, has been besieged for interviews since the incident. He appeared Thursday morning on NBC's "Today Show" and several other news outlets.

The outpouring of thanks continues from the families of students whom Eulls rescued from harm's way. Yet Eulls has remained focused on playing football.

"I think that was his way of getting away from the media circus," Williams said. "On the practice field, he's another one of the guys and they'll rib him if he throws a bad pass. That's the way Kaleb is; he's a humble guy."

Thursday's practice restored normalcy. The team feasted on barbecue sandwiches afterward and Eulls caught a glimpse of the junior varsity game.

Friday night, the Yazoo County Panthers (1-1) renew their rivalry at Velma Jackson (Camden, Miss.).

"We're focused on the game," Eulls said.

Eulls also realizes the magnitude of his bravery.

"I'm aware, but it was a crazy situation," he said. "I needed to make a stand."

Williams added, "He's mentally drained and looking forward to Friday's game. This is a special group [of players]."

Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball, and boys' and girls' basketball. He also worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, for which he ran the Gatorade National Player of the Year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.