ABC News' Nicholas Munson reports:
Alex Walden and her boyfriend, Ryan Tippetts, said they called the police to report her black Jetta stolen from the University Hill neighborhood in Boulder, Colo., after Walden found her cell phone playing Pandora music while lying on the ground, apparently chucked from the missing car.
It only took 15 minutes for the Jetta to reappear Saturday morning - and with it, the alleged thief still in the driver's seat, Walden said. As the couple crossed an intersection, she took a closer look at the car - same color, same license plate and same soccer ball lying in the back.
"I asked him what he was doing and he said, 'I'm trying to let ya'll cross the street,'" Walden told ABCNews.com. "He didn't realize who we were and I told him to get out of my car."
But the suspect - former University of Colorado running back Davien Payne, 20, according to police - refused, she said.
Tippetts, according to a police report, dove through the passenger-side window, climbed over a woman in the passenger seat and battled Payne for control of the steering wheel.
"The police showed up within 30 seconds after he got out of the car and tried to make a run for it - but they got him," Walden said.
Payne allegedly was captured by officers in an alleyway close by.
According to the police report, Payne told police that he had asked for a ride from a friend and she, along with an unknown driver, picked him up in a black Jetta. When Tippetts and Walden stepped in front of the car, Payne told police, the driver fled the scene - and when the police got there, he ran away from them because he was "nervous."
The second person in the car told officers that Payne had told her he "had a car and was coming to pick her up," according to the report.
Police said that when Payne was arrested, he pushed an officer and then punched him in the face before being subdued.
Tippetts paid a hefty price for his heroics, taking about 20 punches in the face and throat while trying to keep the car from crashing, he said. He now has six titanium plates with screws holding his throat together after suffering a broken larynx - but that hasn't affected his spirits.
"I should be totally fine," Tippetts told ABCNews.com. "I've got a bunch of metal in my throat so now I have to worry about going through metal detectors."
Payne may have a tougher road ahead. He has been charged with aggravated motor vehicle theft, two counts of second-degree assault, resisting arrest, obstructing a police officer and third-degree trespassing.
The tailback, who is from Perris, Calif., was suspended from the Colorado football program last spring for violating team policy and being academically ineligible, a team spokesman said.
Payne's bond is currently set at $10,000, and his next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 12 in Boulder, according to the Boulder County Jail.
An attorney was not yet listed for Payne in records at the Boulder County Court.
Marshall Zelinger of ABC News affiliate KMGH contributed to this report.