Naperville North senior Thompson's actions a winner

  • Nick Thompson

    Nick Thompson

Updated 11/27/2019 8:49 PM

Somewhere out there, a man owes Nick Thompson a heaping helping of thanks.

The Naperville North senior, a 6-foot-4, right-side hitter on the Huskies' boys volleyball team last season, didn't have a history of heroism until Oct. 4.


He redeemed his hero card that night.

Reported initially by Rachel Hale, editor of Naperville North's student newspaper, The North Star, Thompson was working his shift at Jet's Pizza, washing pans in the back, when his manager noticed flames coming from a car that had struck a traffic signal across the street at Ogden Avenue and Columbia Street.

The manager yelled for someone to call 911. Thompson executed the order while bursting out of the store and running across the street toward the accident, along with a fellow Jet's employee. They were met by another do-gooder at the vehicle, which had split in half by the force of the crash.

"I don't think I had any thoughts when it was happening," Thompson said.

The driver was still behind the wheel of the fragmented vehicle -- "just a hunk of metal," Thompson said -- suspended upside-down by his seat belt. The rescuers released the belt and cradled the man while pulling him out of the car.

"I honestly thought he was dead for a minute, because when we were dragging him he wasn't moving and his eyes were wide open," Thompson said.

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The crash was fiery enough to cause minor burns on Nick's forearms. (Not serious enough to knock him out of any Sports Performance club volleyball practices, though he could have worked it that way had he wanted.)

After dragging the man to safety "the whole thing went up," Thompson said.

"I've never had a feeling so, like, blank in my mind. It just happened, I was just running on instinct," he said.

"To be honest I was kind of in shock the rest of the night. I don't know, I think it was adrenaline or something. Like, Wow, that really just happened."

He's had no contact with the driver, whom Naperville Police stated was transported from the scene with non-life-threatening injuries. After an investigation, on Oct. 25 he was charged with five violations. The case is pending in court.


Back in school the week after the incident, Thompson said classmates and teachers were aware of what happened but there wasn't much made of it. What struck Thompson was a past discussion in which a teacher spoke of "fight or flight" instincts and the tiny percentage of people who would have acted as Thompson did the night of Oct. 4.

"I guess I'm one of those people," Thompson said.

He linked that possibility to his father, Neal, a retired Army chief warrant officer who was awarded a Purple Heart and a Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in Vietnam. Among other more recent pursuits, Neal Thompson served more than 28 years in the Illinois National Guard as a helicopter pilot, according to his book, "Reckoning: Vietnam and America's Cold War Experience, 1945-1991."

"I'm not necessarily going in the Army, but I can see where that idea would be fitting," Nick Thompson said.

Still running

There's the regular high school cross country season, then the state series. For select runners there's a "third" season, the national level. They're in the midst of that right now.

On Saturday the Midwest regional of the 41st Foot Locker Cross Country Championships will be held in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The top 10 finishers from the seeded boys and girls races advance to the finals, Dec. 4 in San Diego.

Glenbard West four-time state champ Katelynne Hart, Wheaton Warrenville South's Sam Poglitsch and Hinsdale Central's McKenna Revord will compete in the girls race. Wheaton Warrenville South's Billy Hauenstein runs in the boys' regional.

Local talent

The 11-0 Wheaton College football team is hosting its second-round Division III playoff game against Central College (Iowa) at noon Saturday.

Central (10-1) needed overtime to get past Oshkosh 38-37 in its first-round game. The Thunder, ranked third by the American Football Coaches Association, moved to 11-0 in first-round games with its 51-7 win over Martin Luther.

No. 5 North Central College, led by Gagliardi Trophy semifinalist and former Neuqua Valley quarterback Broc Rutter, has a stern test.

The Cardinals (10-1) visit No. 2 Mount Union at noon Saturday in Alliance, Ohio. The host Purple Raiders (11-0) are the 2018 Division III runner-up and have won 13 national titles, most recently in 2017. Mount Union won the only prior meeting 41-40 in the 2013 semifinals.

Twitter: @doberhelman1

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