‘One for the books:’ Jesse Luketa gets helping hand from family of Cardinals fans

Nov 27, 2023, 2:36 PM | Updated: 5:49 pm

Jesse Luketa runs through drills...

Arizona Cardinals OLB Jesse Luketa runs through drills during practice on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — Sometimes everyone needs a helping hand.

Ahead of the Arizona Cardinals’ Week 12 tilt against the Los Angeles Rams, that someone was outside linebacker Jesse Luketa.

The second-year pro found himself in quite the predicament on Sunday after a flat tire 30 minutes out from State Farm Stadium looked like it would keep Luketa from reaching his destination by the noon deadline for players.

“I was 30 minutes out, so my heart starts beating (and I’m thinking), ‘I’m about to be late,'” Luketa said Monday. “I’m calling who I need to call to let them know this is the situation.”

If you’ve ever been late — or been on a team where someone else was — the consequence is usually a benching if not more (sorry for the unintentional trigger).

But as they say: Right place, right time.

Before all the dread and anxiety of being late set in for the linebacker, Cardinals fan J.W. Phillips and his family of five all geared up for the game were gassing up right across from where Luketa was trying (and failing) to air up his tire.

The rest is history.

“I’m like, ‘I have absolutely nothing to lose,'” Luketa said Monday. “I pulled my window down and I just yelled, ‘You guys going to the stadium?’ He looks at me a little crazy and says, ‘Yeah.’ I’m like, ‘I’m a player, I got a flat tire. Can you guys help me out?’

“He walks back to his car and talks to his wife … and they got me there on time and had a blast talking to his kids the whole way there. And that’s all she wrote.”

While his pregame routine was thrown off a little bit — he likes to vibe out to music in the car on his way to games — it certainly beat the alternative.

And if anything, it provided Luketa — and the family of Cardinal rescuers — with a memory they won’t soon forget.

“Best fans in America,” Luketa said when asked what this situation says about Cardinals fans. “Speaking for myself, I don’t think this has ever happened to any other professional player across football, basketball, soccer. It’s definitely one for the books.

“This is the type of stuff that only happens to me. I don’t know anyone else who it would happen to. Extremely grateful and forever in indebted to them.”

The best part? Phillips didn’t even know of Luketa the football player when he agreed to give him a lift but walked away getting to know Luketa the person.

“At the end of the day, we were just trying to help somebody who was in a tough spot,” Phillips told KTAR News’ Gaydos & Chad on Monday.

“I will be honest, I think my wife (Googled him) just to make sure, but speaking for 10-15 seconds, he’s the most unintimidating, nice guy I’ve ever talked to.”

A happy ending all around

Luketa made sure the fans’ gesture didn’t go unnoticed. At the end of the day, it was the least he could do.

After some searching the linebacker not only was able to track down the family postgame, he is also hooking them up with tickets to Arizona’s next home game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15.

“I was able to take some pictures with the kids postgame and I let them know that I’m going to take care of their tickets for our next home game against San Fran,” Luketa said.

Great work all around (except for Luketa’s car).

It could only be you

While Luketa has never been in the same kind of situation he found himself in on Sunday, he’s no stranger to car problems.

“(My teammates) laughed at me,” Luketa said. “One thing about me, they always know there’s a situation with my car. For it to happen on game day and the outcome to be me to get there with fans, it’s crazy.

“It’s a 2019 car, it takes me from Point A-B, but it didn’t take me to the stadium on Sunday,” the OLB added.

Sounds like it’s time to take a trip the local dealership.

“(I have a) BMW. I might have to go Toyota or Lexus,” Luketa said.

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