Behind Super Bowl Ad That Reunites Coach Anthony Lynn with First Responders Who Saved His Life

In 2005, Lynn walked across the street and a speeding car — with a drunk driver at the wheel — came barreling at him

It was a dramatic Super Bowl moment that didn’t leave many dry eyes. Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, who nearly died in an accident some 14 years ago, reunited on camera with the first responders who helped save his life.

“He didn’t realize we were there” for the surprise reunion, Skyla Bosco — who was a paramedic who arrived on scene shortly after Lynn’s accident — tells PEOPLE. “It was really emotional. He broke down. We were all trying not to cry.”

The reunion — which aired during the game — is part of a campaign from Verizon to highlight those who race in to help when a 911 call goes out. The campaign, “The Team Wouldn’t Be Here,” showcases 12 NFL stars who were saved by first responders. The group includes 11 players and one coach, Lynn.

In 2005, Lynn worked on the coaching staff for the Dallas Cowboys football team. On October 20, he went out to dinner following a training camp session in Ventura, California. Afterward, while Lynn walked across the street, a speeding car — with a drunk driver at the wheel — came barreling at him.

“I just remember seeing the headlights,” Lynn recalled.

Another coach saw something far worse: Lynn flying 45-50 feet into the air, and crashing headfirst into a parked car. Lynn fell to the ground with two collapsed lungs, three broken ribs, and major facial and shoulder damage. He was choking on his own blood.

“I just prayed,” Lynn said. “I thought for sure I was dead.”

When the first responders arrived, they didn’t know whether Lynn would live.

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

“I saw a man on the ground with a police officer holding his c-spine to stabilize him,” Bosco tells PEOPLE. “We got out of the engine, grabbed our medical stuff, and went to work.”

It didn’t look good for Lynn, recalls Bosco, who now is a physician’s assistant at an emergency room in Denver, Colorado.

“He was in bad shape,” Bosco says. “He kind of kept going in and out. He would open and close his eyes.”

When Lynn mumbled that he couldn’t feel his legs, the first responders exchanged glances.

“We gave each other the uh-oh,” Bosco says, adding, “Is he going to live? Why can’t he feel his legs?”

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The paramedics stabilized their patient, and raced him to the emergency room. There, they had no time to find out how he was nor even who he was. They were needed back on the streets, for more emergencies.

Still, the rescue crews wondered.

“There’s lots of people you think about” after responding to a 911 call, says Bosco. The profoundly injured mystery man was one of those people.

In early December, the crews finally got their chance to learn the outcome of the long-ago rescue mission. A casting director tracked them down and asked them to gather for a reunion with someone they saved: Lynn.

Both the first responders and their former patient, who recovered fully, were surprised.

Anthony Lynn. David Zalubowski/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“Coach Lynn had no idea that he was going to reunite with us,” says David Mendoza, a Ventura, California firefighter who helped save Lynn. “Seeing the look on his face when he got to meet us was amazing.”

So, too, was the resolution of a lingering question.

“I often don’t get the chance to meet the people I’ve helped,” Mendoza says. “It was so great to talk with him and see him doing so well, and to just give him a hug.”

The first responders, for their part, continue to work on the front lines of crisis.

“I hope no one ever has to call 911, but when you do, we’ll be there,” Bosco says.

“They said I had to have some angels with me that night to survive,” a grateful Lynn told the police and medics who gathered to surprise him in December. “I believe you guys are angels.”

Super Bowl 53 is airing live from Atlanta on CBS.

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