Miles Sanders has played inside Heinz Field a few times in his football career.
He did it in high school when he attended Woodland Hills, about a 15-minute drive from ‘Dahntahn,” as Pittsburghers call the downtown area of the city and a trip that requires passage through the Squirrel Hill tunnel.
He did in college when he attended Penn State and the Lions played the Pitt Panthers and annihilated them one game.
“My favorite memory at Heinz Field is beating them Pitt Panthers 51-6, my junior year at college, said Sanders. “Just the fact that all my boys were on the (Pitt) team, and they were talking so much smack the whole offseason, and the game finally came, 51-6, that’s all I gotta say.”
Sanders will return to Heinz Field on Sunday to play his first game at Heinz Field as a professional when the Eagles (1-2-1) meet the 3-0 Steelers.
Perhaps Sanders will unearth a new favorite memory of Pittsburgh’s stadium, which rises majestically above the Ohio River.
Earlier in the week, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin recalled the WPIAL championship game in Sanders’ freshman year of high school. The WPIAL finals in all high school classifications are played at Heinz Field, and Tomlin remembers going to that game and watching Sanders rush for 100 yards or so.
The coach said he remembered Sanders’ name because he knew the kid was special.
So far, Sanders has proven Tomlin right.
He broke a pair of long-standing team rookie records last year, LeSean McCoy’s single-season rushing yardage mark set in 2009 and receiver DeSean Jackson’s yards from scrimmage mark set in 2008.
Sanders ran for 881 yards last year and compiled 1,327 yards from scrimmage, best among anyone else in his rookie class.
He talks about wanting to be great, and he talked on Friday about his return to his hometown stadium to play against his hometown team.
“It’s a blessing, actually,” said Sanders. “I can’t really put it into words because it’s a lot of emotions, to be honest … The way our city’s set up, guys like me, young African-Americans, coming out of Pittsburgh, this stuff isn’t guaranteed or promised to anybody.
“I know so many players that I played with. I know many friends who could be doing something successful, or be in the same position as me, but they took the wrong routes. I’m just blessed and happy that I’m living my dream finally. So, going back to Pittsburgh and playing in my city means a lot to me.”
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