When Joe Mixon took the field at Paul Brown Stadium for his first game in the NFL and first game as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, he quickly heard a familiar voice.
“Hey, baby boy,” the voice called as Mixon ran through the tunnel and onto the field.
It couldn’t be.
But it was.
His mother was there at the stadium in a #28 jersey, excited to watch her son play his first NFL game. His sister, Shalonda, was sitting right there with her, as the two had traveled from Oakley, California to be there for Mixon’s first game.
“His first game as an NFL player. I had to be here. I wasn’t going to miss it,” said Mixon’s mother, Alisa, via Bengals.com. "I wasn’t going to miss it even though its preseason.”
Mixon had a great debut, which included an 11 yard catch, for which he ran past multiple defenders, breaking tackles to achieve, as well as 31 yards on the ground, picking up an average of 5.1 yards per carry.
After the game, Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was among the stars in the first episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks last week, asked Mixon for his jersey. That’s a growing trend in the NFL as players look to exchange jerseys for their personal collections. McCoy, who like Mixon, attended University of Oklahoma, wanted to add the rookie’s #28 jersey to his collection. Mixon was rightfully flattered.
“That's my dog. He’s an O.U. legend,” said Mixon, who also got to take home McCoy’s #93 jersey. “He’s the one who asked me for my jersey. I said, ‘What? Are you serious?’ He was just showing me love. It means a lot. That’s Gerald McCoy, one of the greatest defensive lineman in the game right there.”
It’ll be interesting to see if the jersey exchange is featured on Hard Knocks next week for the second episode of the season on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.
More importantly than McCoy being impressed by the rookie was Mixon’s quarterback, Andy Dalton, appreciating the effort he put in on Friday night, which included Mixon picking up a nice block in the red zone.
“He knows what he’s doing,” Dalton said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “For me back there, it’s communicating and helping him out as much as I can. If I know somebody’s coming I can say, hey, this dude’s coming so he can block his man. When he knows who he’s going to, he can block people. He’s big and strong. I thought it was great. He knew exactly where his guy was and he went over and picked him up.”
It’s great for Mixon to have the support of his quarterback and Friday night was the beginning of what looks to be a great career for the rookie running back in Cincinnati.