Saved life overshadows football

By Sean Ostruszka

“C’mon Rick. C’mon.”

Bobby Narang’s voice resonated in the small press box. Then it was Jim Phillips’, Mike Korcek’s, and my own. Before we knew it, even the paramedics were joining in.

We didn’t know if yelling would help, but we had to do something.

Rick Armstrong was lying on the floor of the press box. He was struggling for every breath and every pulse; struggling for his life.

The paramedics leaning over Rick were frantically trying to save him. They hooked up a heart monitor, but registered no pulse. It wasn’t until the fifth try with a defibrillator that the heart monitor sprang back to life.

And all the while we huddled around him cheering, pleading, and begging for him to stay with us.

In the press box, a place where you’re supposed to remain emotionally unattached, we were anything but. We couldn’t help it.

Rick was a colleague, a friend, a husband, and a father. We weren’t going to let him go.


An hour and a half before NIU kicked-off against Akron, reporter Rick Armstrong for the Aurora-Beacon Newspaper suffered a massive heart attack while I was talking to him.

It was one of the most sudden and frightening moments I’ve ever seen. And the look he gave me as it happened is something I hope no one ever sees.

With the help of Narang, a reporter for the Daily Chronicle, we got Armstrong to the floor where I was forced to do CPR the next 10 minutes.

When the paramedics arrived we all were forced to become spectators to his body being carried out on a board.

Armstrong was taken to a local hospital where he regained consciousness. He underwent triple-bypass surgery Tuesday morning and doctors have said he will make a full recovery.

But that’s not the full story.

The whole story continues on to today.

To anyone in that press box, the game Sat. night was meaningless. And for maybe the first time in our lives, we all realized that sports are really just games.

Don’t get me wrong, sports are incredible. They are fun, exciting, and entertaining. Sports make it OK to paint your face and act like a fool.

But they aren’t real.

You know what is?

Jim Phillips, NIU’s Athletic Director, missing every play of the game. This is a man who breathes Huskie sports, but forgive him, he was too busy. He was at the hospital trying to set up a flight so Armstrong’s wife, Debby, could be with her husband. He didn’t know the score until well after the game had ended.

Or how about NIU’s Sports Information Director, Mike Korcek. He’s usually running around in the press box keeping track of stats, instead, he barely moved. He was on the phone for a good portion of the game trying to get as much information on Rick’s condition for those in the booth.

Since last Saturday I have been in constant touch with Narang. He’s kept me in the loop on all that’s happened while also making sure I was OK.

What these men did is real. These men did things beyond going to a football game.

You too can do something. You can go about trying to become CPR certified.

Sometime this football season I hope to shake Rick’s hand again. If it wasn’t for CPR I’d never get that chance. It’s easy to become certified and everyone should know how to do it. You can go online to find more information or most park districts can certify you.

This weekend I thought I’d get to watch NIU beat up on Akron. I thought I’d get to relax in the press box. I thought I’d never have to do CPR. But reality decided otherwise.

May it never happen to you. But you just never know.