Henry Bainivalu has spent five-plus years protecting people in Seattle.

It’s a service that extends beyond the football field.

At roughly 8 p.m. Tuesday, Ari Liljenwall — a writer for the Sounders and the MLS — was driving on I-5 North to a friend’s house nearby when a car behind him cut across multiple lanes in an attempt to reach the exit, barreling into his bumper at more than 60 mph instead. Liljenwall said Wednesday that “my car got propelled pretty far forward and I lost control of it for a second there.

“I wouldn’t say my life flashed before my eyes or anything, but I definitely had the thought that I could get very seriously injured right now. That thought went through my head, 100%.”

Meanwhile, the offending driver — who Liljenwall dubbed “an absolute circus clown” — tore from the scene without stopping.

“They were long gone,” he said. “Like, I literally never once saw the car.”

Which is where Bainivalu comes in. The sixth-year UW offensive lineman and a friend, David Kringle, witnessed the entire incident from Kringle’s trailing Honda Element. They also recorded a description of the offending car and all but one digit of its license plate, and reported the collision to the Seattle Police’s non-emergency number.

“They just smacked into the guy in front of us,” recalled the 6-foot-7 Bainivalu, whose 330 pounds were stuffed into the passenger seat. “We see his car start swerving a little bit. We were scared, thinking he was going to flip.”


Instead, Liljenwall — who was miraculously uninjured — regained control of his 2008 Honda Civic and immediately exited onto 85th Street. Bainivalu and Kringle trailed behind, fearing the driver might be “in shock or concussed.”

The cars stopped side by side at a red light on 85th Street, where Liljenwall and Bainivalu rolled down their respective windows.

“Did you guys see that?!” Liljenwall asked.

“Yeah, are you OK?” Bainivalu and Kringle replied.

Liljenwall, Bainivalu and Kringle pulled into the Jack in the Box parking lot on the corner of 85th Street and Aurora Avenue, where all three checked on Liljenwall’s bumper — which was somehow intact — and exchanged a description of the offending car.

“I think all three of us were a little surprised that I didn’t get injured,” Liljenwall said. “I know I was pretty surprised, just because of the force of impact.”

All things considered, the incident could have soured Liljenwall on his fellow Seattleites.

But thanks to Bainivalu and Kringle, it actually did the opposite.


“The whole thing gave me a little bit of faith in humanity,” Liljenwall said. “Especially with all the negativity and difficult times that we’ve dealt with societally over the last couple years, it can be easy to get down in the dumps and pessimistic about everything going on around us. So the whole interaction really lifted me up emotionally.

“Because I was like, ‘You know what, there’s a lot of good people out there that will do something good not for any reward or any reason other than they can.’ That’s what struck me about it. It was something they didn’t need to do, and they both did it anyway.”

Added Bainivalu, a two-year starting right guard who will return for a sixth season in Seattle this fall: “I wasn’t expecting anything from it, because you just want to help out people. Just before that when me and my friend were catching up we were talking about the kind of men we want to be. By no means am I perfect, but if you see someone who needs help, go help them out.”

Roughly 24 hours later, that help was rewarded.

Liljenwall was so shaken by the incident initially that he failed to thank Bainivalu and Kringle properly. The next day, he posted a video on social media explaining the situation and offering “Henry and David” — he didn’t know their last names — tickets to the Sounders’ CONCACAF Champions League final against Pumas at Lumen Field on May 4.

According to Bainivalu, “Everything kind of blew up (on social media).” After being forwarded the video, he wasted little time getting in touch.

Which is when Liljenwall discovered one of his good Samaritans was also a Washington football player.


“I don’t follow Husky football at all, really,” Liljenwall admitted. “I saw from his profile right away that he was a UW football player, and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s incredible.’ I looked up his career, and he seems like a pretty big, important player on the team — a starter and a leader. So when I looked into his UW bio a little bit I was like, ‘This makes sense. This is just a stand-up guy.’”

When asked Thursday if he plans to attend next week’s CONCACAF Champions League final, Bainivalu smiled and said: “I definitely plan on going. I’m not missing that.”

Good things happen to stand-up guys.

“I’ve never been to a Sounders game, so this is actually amazing,” the Sammamish native and former Skyline High School standout added, following UW’s 14th practice of the spring. “With the atmosphere, especially watching yesterday’s game (a 2-2 draw in the final’s first leg in Mexico) and how the fans interact with everybody, it will be a lifetime experience.”

As for Liljenwall, he’s just happy to be healthy — and to know there are more Bainivalus and Kringles out there than circus clowns.

“It’s not the most incredible story of all time, especially because there were no negative repercussions for me from the crash,” he said. “It wasn’t like I got seriously injured and they dragged me from a burning car or anything like that.

“But it’s more the principle and the fact that they would do that. It definitely lifted me up to have affirmation that there are people out there — and probably more than we even think or realize – that will do something good like that just because they can.”