Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson is being labeled a hero for the part he played in helping his business associate escape a house fire in Bay Harbor, Mich. early this past Saturday morning.
"He's a hero if you think about it," said Rick Ruiz, director of operations for TwentyFour wine. "He actually woke me up, told me to get up."
Woodson and Ruiz are business partners in the cornerback's own wine label, TwentyFour, named after the number he wore while playing for the Oakland Raiders. The two were spending the night at the home of Gwen Haggerty who hosted an event that was both a fundraiser and a celebration of the dedication of the University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital to open in 2011.
Haggerty is the daughter of Ted and Jane Von Voigtlander whose foundation donated $15 million to the hospital.
Woodson personally donated $2 million in 2009 through his own foundation to his college alma mater at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hopital to be housed in the same facility as the Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital.
Furthermore, $10 of every bottle of his TwentyFour wine is donated to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.
While up late into the evening, Woodson and Ruiz smelled a smoky odor and actually searched the top floor of the house looking for the source but couldn't find anything. They thought perhaps the cleaning staff had burned a vacuum belt.
"I kind of just laid down, and Charles and I were just kind of hanging out there chatting about trying to figure out where that smell was coming from," said Ruiz. "It wasn't heavy at all in the beginning. It was just very light. I dozed off for a minute and Charles woke me up saying, 'We gotta go. There's a fire here.'"
The fire alarms went off and the dozen or so guests of the multi-million dollar house were all able to evacuate safely.
Woodson and Ruiz cancelled a couple of fundraising events on Saturday but are currently back in Green Bay and plan to continue their travels in support of TwentFour wine at another event to be held tomorrow evening, Wednesday July 14, at the Riverbend Club in Kohler, Wis. Their only inventory lost in the fire was that which the homeowner bought earlier in the evening.
The pair were shaken by the event and feel bad for the homeowners who are thought to have lost the entire home to fire, according to the Petoskey News-Review in Michigan.
"Charles and I have been thinking about, what if that? What if that?" said Ruiz. "We need to stop doing that and just be happy that everybody got out alive. You can actually drive yourself mental by thinking, 'What if we wouldn't have done that. What if we would have done this?'"
Ruiz credits watching a highlight video from the year Woodson won the Heisman Trophy and Michigan won a share of the national championship for keeping them alive.
"The Charles Woodson 1997 highlight tape saved our lives, because that's what kept us up so late," said Ruiz. "Seriously, we were up late watching that tape, and that's what made us stay up so late to find that smoke in the beginning. Otherwise we probably would have been passed out. I don't know."
Woodson was unavailable for comment.