In 2014, Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy and led his team to the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship game. The Ducks struck first in that title game against Ohio State, with Mariota finding senior wide receiver Keanon Lowe for a seven-yard touchdown early in the first quarter.
You might not remember Lowe on the field, who was named Oregon football’s Most Inspirational Player by his teammates that same year, but you’ll definitely remember him for the lives he saved at Parkrose High School.
Keanon Lowe Parkrose High School
On May 17, 2019, an 18-year-old named Angel Granados-Diaz brought a loaded shotgun into the halls of the high school in Portland, Oregon. Students said Diaz was wearing a black trench coat and pointing the gun at himself with “his eyes really wide open.” Adrenaline kicked in as students began to scramble around, but Keanon Lowe, a school security guard who was radioed to the school’s fine arts building, stayed locked in and acted swiftly.
“Everything happened so fast and it was the longest fraction of a second of my life, but I kind of assessed that situation and my instincts kicked in,” the former star football player said during an appearance on Good Morning America.
“I lunged for the gun and we both had the gun, we had four hands on the gun. Students are running out of the back of the classroom and I’m just trying to make sure the end of the gun isn’t pointing toward where the students are running.”
According to The Oregonian, Granados-Diaz had retreated into a bathroom, pointed the firearm at his torso, and pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. Earlier that day, the student reportedly told a classmate “life was not worth living.”
Lowe wrestled the loaded gun away from Diaz and detained him before police arrived on the scene. According to Portland police, the armed student was charged with possession of firearm in a public building, attempting to discharge a firearm at a school, reckless endangerment, and possession of a loaded firearm in a public place.
No shots were fired and no students were injured.
As for Lowe, the former NFL offensive analyst for the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers under Chip Kelly is being heralded as a hero, but he said on Twitter that he was simply doing his job to save the lives of his Parkrose School District students.
The three-year starter at the University of Oregon caught 68 passes 891 yards and nine touchdowns during his career. The Oregon native was named the Parkrose football team’s head football coach, and also a track and field coach, prior to the last year. Before he arrived, the Broncos were on a 23-game losing streak.
Lowe snapped Parkrose’s losing streak with an 82-7 win against Benson Tech and led the football team to the playoffs in his first season.
“It feels great [to be called a hero],” Lowe said. “But I feel like I was put in that room for a reason. He didn’t know I was in that room when he opened the door and I think there’s things in my life that have happened that have prepared me for that very moment.”
He’s only 26 years old, but Keanon Lowe is a legend in the Pacific Northwest. If there’s anyone who deserves to be called a “hero” by the same students he saved and will continue to teach, lead and mentor, it’s this guy.
UPDATE: Surveillance video of the shocking encounter was released by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office in October 2019. The new video shows Lowe after he disarmed the gunman, and the incredibly compassionate aftermath that followed.
High school football coach Keanon Lowe embraced Diaz, hugged him, and awaited police.
Keanon Lowe Security Footage
Granados-Diaz eventually pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of a firearm in a public building and one count of unlawful possession of a loaded firearm in public. He was sentenced to three years of probation, according to KATU. Diaz will also receive mental health and substance abuse treatment counseling.
Keanon Lowe Movie
UPDATE (December 14, 2020): Keanon Lowe is a hero, and now he will have a movie about his incredible encounter.
Disney announced in December 2020 that it was working on an original movie about Keanon Lowe. According to The Oregonian, “The Keanon Lowe Project” is “inspired by the incredible real-life story of a high school coach who averted tragedy through compassion” and will stream on Disney Plus.
In March 2020, Lowe was given the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic act. A year removed from serving as a high school coach, Lowe now works as an offensive analyst on Chip Kelly’s staff for the UCLA Bruins football team during the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19-plagued season.
This article was originally published May 20, 2019. It was updated after the emotional surveillance footage was released and again after Disney announced a movie about Lowe.