GREEN BAY – Christian Ringo remembers the moment like it was yesterday.
The future Packers defensive lineman, about 14 years old at the time, brought his little brother, Isaiah, with him to swim at a friend’s house in their hometown of Jackson, Miss.
The agreement came with an understanding, though. Before they arrived, Ringo laid down the ground rules to his younger brother, who was about age four.
“I told him, ‘Stay on the steps. Do not get off the steps,’” Ringo recalled this week in a phone interview. “I think I turned my back for 5 seconds and then all I see is his hands waving in the pool.
“My heart jumped to my stomach, man. I swam so fast. … If something happened to him, I knew my mama wasn’t going to let me come home.”
As he jumped in, Ringo slipped on the slope of the pool but still managed to grab his little brother and toss him in the air, catching him as soon as he regained his balance.
Isaiah was fine and Ringo could safely return home, but that day stuck with him.
Years later, that experience came in handy last weekend when Ringo took his girlfriend to a waterpark in Houston for her birthday.
Swimming near the deep end of the wave pool, Ringo locked eyes with an older man. Everyone, including Ringo, was sitting on an inflated tube or wearing a life jacket, but the man didn’t have either. He was trying to say something, but Ringo couldn’t make out the words.
Ringo saw him splashing, but figured he was just enjoying the waves. Then, he noticed a look of desperation wash over him similar to his younger brother.
So Ringo reacted.
“I don’t know what he was going to say but he was going to say something, but the waves caught him right between his words and he started making the bubbles sounds,” Ringo said.
“He did it twice. When he did it the first time, I’m thinking ‘He probably knows how to swim.’ The second time, it was like, ‘OK, I better assist him.’ The way he reacted after I did it, he was like, ‘Wow, you saved my life.’ I just did what was natural.”
Ringo dragged him a few yards to the shallow area where the man regained his bearings and thanked Ringo before the two went their separate ways.
About 30 minutes later near the pool, Ringo noticed a Packers’ T-shirt flash into his line of vision. Then, he saw it was the same man wearing it.
“I’d seen the shirt before I’d seen him because the shirt grabbed my attention like, ‘I wonder who that is with a Packers’ shirt on?’” Ringo said. “I looked up and saw his face. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s the same guy that I saved.’”
The two caught up again and the man introduced his daughter and his grandchildren to Ringo. They posed for a picture together, which Ringo later posted on his Instagram account.
“He didn’t know I played for the Packers, but he came over,” Ringo said. “He went on to say that when his head was in the water, he was praying for help. He said that God told him that he had somebody to help him, but he didn’t know it was a cheesehead. So he was excited about that.”
Ringo didn’t catch the man’s name but has been trying to reconnect with him ever since. He recalls his daughter saying she has a Facebook page and Snapchat, but so far he hasn’t been able to find her.
Whatever the case, Ringo was happy to be in the right place at the right time, knowing firsthand what it feels like to see a loved one in dire need of help.
One thing that’s certain is there’s a man down in Texas who can be grateful that Isaiah didn’t listen to his older brother all those years ago.
Ringo readying for another run at roster spot