'SURVIVOR 2' STAR IN BATTLE WITH KILLER

Published on: February 5, 2001

"SURVIVOR 2" contestant Michael Skupin is a real-life hero -- he rescued a woman from certain death as a mugger was about to bash in her skull with a rock.

"That was one of the bravest acts ever," Officer Cameron Kooy of Kalamazoo, Mich., told Skupin at the time.

"It was also one of the dumbest."

That's because Skupin's adversary was a hulking 6-foot-5 thug who outweighed skinny 6-foot-3 Skupin by about 50 pounds.

But Skupin wasn't thinking about his own safety that rainy night of March 18, 1983.

It was after midnight. Skupin, a junior at Western Michigan University at the time, was studying in the room he rented on the top floor of a three-story home. Suddenly, the quiet of the night was broken by the panic-stricken screams of a woman.

"I looked out my window and across the street I saw this huge guy who had a woman backed up against a car," Skupin told a friend.

"The guy was holding a rock about the size of a cantaloupe. He was pounding her with it and she was trying to block the blows as she screamed for help."

Skupin didn't hesitate a second. Dressed only in a bathrobe, he raced down two flights of stairs in his bare feet and out the front door.

"It's crazy what goes through your mind at a time like that," Skupin told his friend. "I remember thinking, 'I'm naked except for this bathrobe.'"

Skupin arrived not a moment too soon. As he approached the thug from behind, the mugger had the woman bent backward over the hood of the car. His left hand was around the woman's throat and his right hand, holding the rock, was raised high. He was about to smash in her skull.

As the mugger's arm came down, Skupin's hand shot out and grabbed the thug's wrist, stopping the downward motion of the rock inches from the woman's head.

The startled mugger turned to confront the hero and for a second, Skupin thought, "I'm done. This guy is going to waste me."

But the attacker didn't want to mess with this wild-eyed stranger in a bathrobe. He grabbed the woman's purse and took off running.

But Skupin wasn't done! His adrenaline pumping, he tore after the mugger and caught up with him after a two-block chase.

"I grabbed onto the back of his jacket and thankfully he didn't want to make an issue out of it," Skupin remembered. "He dropped the purse and I let him go. He ran off empty-handed."

Skupin returned to the bleeding woman and helped her up to his apartment while he called police.

"I was screaming and screaming," she told Skupin before she was taken to a local hospital for treatment. "But you were the only one who came to help."

Skupin received a letter of commendation from the Kalamazoo police citing him for "bravery and exemplary conduct."

Those who know Skupin -- a 39-year-old married father of three and cofounder of a Christian computer software company -- say his heroic act is typical of his gutsy personality.

Longtime friend Greg Swan recalled how back in high school, Skupin managed to pull the wool over the eyes of the driver's education teacher.

At the time Skupin, whose father died of cancer when he was just 4, was using the last name of his stepfather, Clarence Landry.

"Everyone thought he was related to Greg Landry, the Detroit Lions' quarterback, and Mike didn't do anything to quash those rumors," Swan told The ENQUIRER.

"One day we were out taking driver's ed with the teacher and we drove by the Silverdome where the Lions played. The teacher said to Mike, 'Let's pull in and you can show me the Detroit locker room.'

"I figured Mike wasn't going to get through this one. But we get out of the car and Mike leads us to the locker room entrance.

"As luck would have it, the door's open and there's no one around. So Mike takes us on a grand tour like he's Landry's favorite relative.

"He was always doing things like that in school, pushing the envelope just further and further."

Swan believes that Skupin, a star high school football player, hunter, water-skier and hockey player, will do very well on the new "Survivor" series.

"He's a risk-taker, a thrill-seeker. It would be a miracle if he didn't do well."

-- DON GENTILE

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