By Chris Emma—

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) – Waiting at the airport in Austin, Texas on Sunday, Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman wasn’t prepared to do something incredible.

He was waiting for a flight when a man began choking. Freeman responded by conducting the Heimlich maneuver, which forcefully removed the blockage from the man named Marcus Ryan, whom he encountered in a barbecue restaurant.

Days later, with Freeman now set at Olivet Nazarene for training camp, he’s still comprehending the situation.

“I guess it’s kind of settling in,” Freeman said to reporters Wednesday. “At the time, it was just something just needed to be done. It was pretty simple — like one-plus-one. Somebody was in need, and I was there. If I wasn’t there, I’m sure somebody else would have done it, I would hope.

“Yeah, I did help a guy out. We were able to talk back and forth. He’s still thanking me. I’m still letting him know, ‘Hey, I guess anybody would have done it, man, hopefully. It’s humanity, man.’ So, that’s what it is.”

Added Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks: “Making tackles and saving lives.”

Freeman’s next task will be leading the Bears defense at inside linebacker. He was signed last season to be a key force at what was then a position of need. Freeman responded with 110 tackles in 12 games last season, but he missed four contests due to a suspension for violating the league’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs.

Freeman is a proven commodity at linebacker and a player in whom the Bears hold high hopes.

“I want to be known as one of the top linebackers in the league,” Freeman said. “I hope everyone on my defense wants to be the best player at their position. That’s the mentality I would want, and that’s the mentality I would want the rest of my defense to have. Getting better, lead a defense to one of the top defenses, just help my team in any kind of way to get some wins.”

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.