WHEELING - Domenik Hixon hasn't stopped talking about Wheeling since he left The Friendly City a year ago after J.J. Newman's first Charity Softball Game.
''I love it,'' the two-time Super Bowl champion and Carolina Panthers receiver said. ''It's a great town, great city.
''When a community really comes out to support charity events, events like this, it's awesome. You can tell how tight-knit it is and I enjoy that.''
J.J. Newman enjoys a moment with some of the game’s participants following action Saturday.
Photo by Tony Viola
Hixon returned to Wheeling on Saturday when Newman put on his second charity softball game at the 47th street ballfields and played shortstop on the All-Pro team that included other NFL Players such as Ramses Barden of the New York Giants and Steve Cargile of the New England Patriots as well as former Arizona Cardinal Mike Stone and Andile Gumbi, who plays Simba on Broadway's ''The Lion King.''
After the game, which featured the pros taking on members of the community, was finished, Newman allowed the kids sitting in the stands to take the field against the pros.
''That was great,'' Hixon said. ''The kids, seeing them out there running and they get to talk to you if they have any questions and they just get to interact with you, which is cool. It's always nice to play sports. Good pastime. Keeps everybody out of trouble.''
Hixon, who was born in Germany and played college football at Akron, is no stranger to charity events as he has his own football camp in Columbus, Ohio, the same town where he attended high school.
''I do a charity football camp and we're having it July 13 this year and we're making it free for all the kids,'' he said. ''J.J. is going to be there, all the guys here. It's a great group of guys. My parents, they do a lot with helping out. It's a great time.''
Since Hixon arrived in Wheeling, he's been to the local golf courses - ''It's a good day since I beat J.J.'' - as well as Generations, T.J.'s and Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino and Racetrack.
''Great things to do to be honest with you. Like I say, I enjoy it. Hopefully I can get out on the water one of these years. Get on the boat and do some jet skis or something.''
On Friday night, Wheeling Island played host to Chris Miller, a Denver comedian who also played in the charity softball game, as another fundraiser for the Wheeling Children's Home.
''Chris is a riot,'' Hixon said. ''He is just a flat out riot. It doesn't matter what crowd it is, he's just a riot. If you have the opportunity, I'd check him out. I know he's doing some shows, he's doing a reality show. Check him out. He's a character. He's naturally funny, you know.''
Newman: We'll be back
The ear-to-ear smile never left Newman's face since the second he arrived at the 47th street ballfields.
''It is the best feeling in the world, one of the best I've ever had, just to know I'm putting smiles on kid's faces,'' he said after the game. ''Just to give back to this community, it's an amazing, amazing feeling.''
In all, over $1,000 was collected by Newman's event. All will go to the Wheeling Children's Home.
''A big thank you to all my sponsors for making this happen,'' he said. ''Honestly, the whole situation has been great. It really has. Nothing is better than seeing these kids light up, and, honestly, it's fun seeing all my friends light up. They love how the kids react and stuff like that. Giving back is just an amazing feeling.''
It's that amazing feeling that will always bring Newman back to the Ohio Valley.
''Every year without a doubt we're going to do this. Rain or shine, we're going to have something going on. We're going to keep it with the softball game, but we'll do something different every year before the softball game. Golf or something.
''I'm truly blessed to be from a great valley with great people and great friends. It's awesome to be giving back.''