This one wasn’t in the playbook. So, when a 14-year-old girl waved a loaded gun on a Mississippi school bus, high school quarterback Kaleb Eulls called his own play — and made a life-saving tackle for the record books.
It was just before 7 a.m. Tuesday. Eulls, star player for Yazoo County High School, was dozing in the back of the bus, lulled by the tunes on his MP3 player, when his 16-year-old sister, Kimberly, roused him from slumber with an urgent piece of news: “Kaleb, the girl has a gun.”
The bus was carrying 22 children ranging in age from 5 to 18. And Eulls, who excels both as a quarterback and a defensive end, wasted no time going into action.
Waving a weapon
“I just immediately woke up and put my glasses on to see what was what, and she was just pointing the gun at different students at the back,” Eulls told TODAY’s Lester Holt Thursday from Pickens, Miss.
Surveillance video from the school bus shows that the girl had stood up earlier, taken out a cheap, chrome-plated .38 automatic handgun, slid a clip with five rounds of ammunition in it, and started walking up and down the aisle of the bus, brandishing the weapon.
“All I can tell from looking at the video is that she was very irate, and she was mad at somebody on the bus that she stated had been picking on her or messing with her,” said Yazoo County Sheriff Thomas Vaughan, who joined Eulls for the interview. “I don’t know what she was doing with the gun, but the way she was pointing it at everybody, if it would have went off even one time, it would have been very sad for some family.”
Eulls wasn’t about to let that happen. The girl, whose name is not being released because of her age, had ordered the bus driver to pull over. Eulls first opened the emergency door in the back and told the other kids to get off the bus. At the same time, he tried to get the girl to focus on him.
“I just tried to catch her attention to get the girl to point the gun directly at me and not at anyone else,” Eulls said.
‘I just lunged’
For several tense minutes, as panicked kids tried to get off the bus, Eulls faced the girl, calmly telling her to either give him the gun or put it down. He told Holt that he was aware that he could have been shot, but if the girl was going to pull the trigger, he would rather that she shot him instead of one of his three younger sisters or another student.
Finally, she gave him the opening he needed — and at that crucial moment, his instincts as a defensive lineman took over.
“As she glanced or blinked for half a second, I just lunged at her,” Eulls said.
When the girl went down, she dropped the gun. The video shows Eulls getting up, holding the weapon aloft to show that the girl was disarmed. With the girl in pursuit, trying to get the gun back, he jumped out of the back of the bus.
Sheriff Vaughan was effusive in his praise of Eulls.
“He made the absolute right call. If it had not been for what he did on that bus, there would be a lot of sad families today,” Vaughan told Holt.
But Eulls isn’t someone that Yazoo County sees every day. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound senior star is one of Mississippi’s “Dandy Dozen,” a designation given to the 12 best high school football players in the state. He’s already committed to play his college ball with Mississippi State as a defensive player.
He’s also an honor-roll student with a grade point average over 3.5.
Vaughan told the local newspaper that the gun the girl had is a cheap weapon with a propensity for accidental firing. Police were still trying to determine where she got it. The girl was taken to a juvenile detention facility and charged with 22 counts of attempted aggravated assault, 22 counts of kidnapping and one count of possession of a firearm on school property.
“It could have been terrible,” Vaughan told NBC News.
Thanks to the biggest play of Kaleb Eulls’ life, it wasn’t.