When the unfamiliar cell-phone ringtone went silent after two and a half rings, Cole Malphrus knew something was wrong.
"I knew that someone was in the house that wasn't supposed to be," he said.
Malphrus, 19, had just arrived at his grandparent's house off Okatie Highway with his girlfriend on Tuesday.
It was around 10 p.m.
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No one was supposed to be home.
The couple had just entered the house when the mystery phone rang.
Malphrus sent his girlfriend to alert neighbors and headed outside to grab a gun from his truck -- "the kind that shoots and gets the job done if someone gets into the house," he said.
On his way back inside, his girlfriend told him she saw three men running from the back of the house toward a dock.
He ran, but didn't shout at them, he said.
Malphrus, at 6-foot-1-inch and about 230 pounds, is a former standout lineman for the Hilton Head Christian Academy football team. He also "worked for a fugitive recovery agency for a while," he said.
"I'm a pretty big guy," he said. "Words weren't exactly needed when I was running down to the dock."
The would-be burglars jumped in a small john boat and "tore off" down the Chechesee River before Malphrus could get to them, he said.
Nothing was stolen from the house according to a report released by the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, but Malphrus's grandmother found a laptop and an envelope of cash out of place, the report said.
No suspects have been identified, the report said.
Malphrus never got a good look at them.
Malphrus, who lives in Jupiter, Fla., said he wasn't frightened by the situation.
Rather, he said "it really angered me more than anything that someone would have done that at my grandparents' house." He added that break-ins are unusual in the close-knit neighborhood.
He said his grandparents "were more upset that I ran back in there than that there was someone in the house."
"They are of the mindset that things aren't nearly as important as a person," Malphrus said.
"So as long as nobody got hurt, we're all OK."
Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian