Jets safety Victor Green had just finished a workout at the team's Hempstead, N.Y., practice facility on April 26 when his car phone rang. A friend had horrifying news: Victor's wife, Esther, and their 10-month-old daughter, Victoria, had just been carjacked at a suburban shopping center in Fayetteville, Ga. Victor, New York's leading tackier in 1998, pulled over and pounded his steering wheel nearly flat. "I went numb," he says. All he could do was wait and pray.
With the engine of her new Mercedes running, Esther, 25, had gotten into the backseat to pick up Victoria's juice cup when a man jumped in and sped off. "We tussled for a minute," she says, "and for the most part I was stronger than he was." Smarter, too. Slipping her hand into the diaper bag at her feet, Esther punched 911 on her cell phone, leaving the line open. As the man drove, she kept up a monologue that included landmarks and street names to tell police the car's location. While pleading with the carjacker and offering him money, she threw in clues: "Why are we on [Route] 314? Are we going to the airport? ...Oh, here, drop me off at the Wal-Mart Supercenter. We can get money there."
At one point the driver stopped. Esther was about to jump from the car with Victoria when a second man got into the backseat. "That's when I thought we were really done for," she says. A few minutes later, though, on Route 85 in Riverdale a police car passed the Mercedes, and Esther shouted for the benefit of the 911 operator, "Hey, they're passing right by us!" Taking their cue, the cops pulled the car over and arrested the driver, Stephen Bonnett, 18, and David McDonald, 21.
Back in New York, Victor got another call: Esther and Victoria were safe. "I guess the bad guys don't always win," Esther says. "I tell her every day how proud I am of her," says Victor, who flew down to Georgia to rejoin his family. "She showed more smarts and courage and guts than any football player I know."