Justin man is finalist for national Citizen Service Above Self Honors

Bryan Jacobs won't sacrifice just himself to help a stranger -- he'll sacrifice his pickup, too.

The Justin man's skillful maneuvering of his truck to safely stop an SUV with an unconscious woman behind the wheel earned him national recognition Wednesday.

Jacobs, 38, is among 10 finalists for the Citizen Service Above Self Honors, national awards given by The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.

"I was just doing what I thought was right," Jacobs said.

Andrea Sumner, the woman he helped, said he deserves the honor and more.

"I am so thankful he was there for me," said Sumner, 25. "I really can't thank him enough."

Sumner, operations coordinator at the Denton Airport, said that on Jan. 11, she had left Denton City Hall and was heading back to the airport on Interstate 35E when she blacked out.

"The last thing I remember is merging onto the highway," she said.

Jacobs, a commercial landscaper for the Brickman Group, was driving to lunch when he noticed her SUV veer out of the right lane in front of him. It crossed into the left lane, hit the center barricade and kept going.

Jacobs said he pulled next to the SUV and peered inside.

"She was slumped over, completely out cold," he said. "She hit the wall again and I could see her head bobbing back and forth. But her foot must have still been on the accelerator."

She wasn't going to stop until she crashed, Jacobs realized.

There was only one thing to do, he said. He sped up and positioned his Ford Ranger in front of the SUV and, carefully watching in the rearview window, took his foot off the gas pedal.

"My truck was the only thing that I thought could stop her," he said.

Sumner's SUV was going 40 to 45 mph when it hit his back bumper. Jacobs put the truck in neutral. With the front bumper of the SUV pinned against the back of his truck, he gradually slowed down. Finally the two vehicles halted.

The woman's foot, however, remained on the gas. The tires squealed and strained against Jacob's pickup.

Help arrived. Another driver jumped out of his car, reached through the woman's window and pulled her keys from the ignition. An ambulance was called, and she was taken to the hospital.

What was most impressive about Jacobs' maneuver is that he wasn't trained to do it, said officer Ryan Grelle, a spokesman for the Denton Police Department, which has also recognized Jacobs for his bravery.

Trained officers sometimes have difficulty performing it, he said.

"If he bumps her at the wrong angle or not dead of center, it can send them into a spin," Grelle said. "The fact that he was able to do it and keep her and himself safe shows he had a very steady hand."

The foundation reported that "Bryan Jacobs' selflessness and bravery in saving the woman's life and preventing more accidents from occurring continues to be an inspiration and a credit to the state of Texas and to his fellow Americans."

Sumner said she awakened confused in the hospital. Doctors soon discovered that she had a tumorlike mass in her brain, which likely caused her to have a seizure or to black out. Surgeons removed the mass a few days later.

Jacobs and Sumner met when he received an award from the Denton Airport.

"She was really nice," Jacobs said. "She thanked me a bunch."

Sumner said she has recovered from the surgery and is back at work. The foundation will select three winners from the finalists March 22, and Sumner said she will keep an eye on the awards.

"He deserves it," she said. "He was really brave."

ALEX BRANCH, 817-390-7689