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Eagles' Miles Sanders returns to hometown Heinz Field with memories, gratitude

Sanders, who spent three years at Penn State before the Eagles took him in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft, played at Heinz Field as a youngster.

Eagles running back Miles Sanders played at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh as a youth football player.
Eagles running back Miles Sanders played at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh as a youth football player.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

There will be an air of familiarity for Miles Sanders on Sunday when the Eagles play the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The second-year running back will be at Heinz Field, a stadium in which he’s played a handful of games. He’ll be in his hometown and in front of his mom and his friends, thanks to state officials' new coronavirus guidelines allowing a limited number of fans to attend the game. The biggest difference for him this time around? Not worrying about managing the cost of tickets, as so many friends from back home normally reach out.

“Just my mom and a couple of friends," Sanders said of who’d be there. “I didn’t want to get bothered with the tickets. Them tickets get expensive. It ain’t like college, you don’t get any free tickets.”

Sanders, a Pittsburgh native who played his high school games a half-hour from Heinz Field, said he grew up wanting to be a Steeler. He has spoken to the Eagles about what this game means to him.

“It’s a lot of emotions, to be honest,” Sanders said. “The way our city is 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, so many friends that could be doing something successful, or be in the same position as me, but they took the wrong route. I’m just blessed and happy that I’m living my dream finally. Being from Pittsburgh and going back to my city and playing in my city, it means a lot to me.”

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Sanders, who spent three years at Penn State before the Eagles took him in the second round of the 2019 draft, played at Heinz Field as a youngster because the local youth football league had its championship game at the Steelers' stadium.

But he said his favorite memory came during his junior season with the Nittany Lions, when he helped beat the University of Pittsburgh, 51-6, on Sept. 8, 2018. Sanders had 16 carries for 118 yards.

“That’s my favorite memory of all time,” Sanders said. “Just the fact that all my boys played on [Pitt] and they were talking so much smack the whole offseason and then the game finally came; 51-6, that’s all I have to say.”

Jackson, Jeffery out vs. Steelers

Wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery have both been ruled out for Sunday’s game.

Jackson will miss his second game in as many weeks with a hamstring injury, while Jeffery is still recovering from a foot injury that required surgery last January. Jeffery returned to practice two weeks ago but missed some time this week with a non-coronavirus-related illness.

The Eagles will also be without cornerback Avonte Maddox, who is dealing with an ankle injury and hasn’t practiced all week. Maddox played college football at Pitt, and he’ll miss the chance to return to his college home stadium.

Fulgham’s wild week

It’s been quite a week for Travis Fulgham’s phone.

The Eagles wideout had a rapid rise to prominence after being called up from the practice squad just in time to score the go-ahead touchdown on a 42-yard reception in a 25-20 win against the San Francisco 49ers.

» READ MORE: Eagles vs. Steelers: Our beat writers' predictions for the Week 5 game

Fulgham said his Instagram account was blowing up with messages from numbers he hadn’t even saved, and his Instagram inbox was flooded. Fulgham’s Twitter DMs have been left unread, though, because he lost his account to a hacker a few hours after the game.

“I was on Twitter, I was watching TV and then I looked back at my phone, and I couldn’t log back on,” Fulgham said. “They changed my password and then I had to email Twitter, do all that stuff. Luckily, I had help, and I just got my Twitter back.”