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Sam McGuffie still turning heads

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She’s 17 years old and already snagged a gold medal for her feat over the halfpipe, but it’s her dad’s homemade sign and their heartwarming relationship that’s captivating America.
USA TODAY

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Sam McGuffie has played football in the Big House for the Michigan Wolverines.

He has lived at the height of Internet popularity — a true YouTube sensation after his high school football highlight tape went viral, long before viral even meant viral.

But nothing has prepared him for the Winter Olympics.

“It’s so much bigger than I thought it would be,” said McGuffie, the former Michigan running back, who will compete in the two-man bobsled event on Sunday at the Winter Olympics.

McGuffie, 28,  took a video of himself walking in the Opening Ceremonies and tweeted:

“The coolest thing I’ve ever done!!! Walking into opening ceremonies chanting USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!”

He’s soaking up every moment of these Games.

From hanging out at the Olympic rings with his teammates.

To going to a U.S. women’s hockey game.

And his wide-eyed enthusiasm is rubbing off on his Olympic teammates, even the old, experienced ones.

“It brings me back to how special this event is,” said bobsledder Nick Cunningham, who is competing in his third Olympics. “You can see, he is not taking this for granted. He’s going with it. It’s re-motivated me to do it. This is my third Games. I don’t want to say,

‘It’s kind of easy to go through the motions.’”

But it’s easy to go through the motions.

Cunningham marveled at McGuffie, all the experiences he has had.

FILE – In this Dec. 17, 2016, file photo, the Swiss team of Rico Peter, Janne Bror van der Zijde, Simon Friedli and Thomas Andrianov, center rear, celebrates its win in the four-man bobsled World Cup race in Lake Placid, N.Y. The U.S. team of Steven Holcomb, rear left, Carlo Valdes, James Reed and Sam McGuffie, front left, took second place. Canada’s Chris Spring, Cameron Stones, Lascelles Brown and Samuel Giguere took third place. McGuffie has scored at Notre Dame Stadium. Little did he know he was on a path to the Olympics. McGuffie was a running back at Michigan and Rice, bounced around some NFL and CFL clubs, then got told about bobsledding. Not long afterward, he met Steven Holcomb _ and this season, McGuffie’s first Olympic season, has been a tribute to his late friend.(AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File) (Photo: Hans Pennink, AP)

“If I walked out into a stadium with 100,000 people screaming,” Cunningham said, “I would be like, ‘Oh, this is too much.’ ”

Ah yes, that brings us back life in the Big House.

McGuffie remembers his first game in Michigan Stadium, on Aug.30, 2008, when he played against Utah.

“Utah was good that year,” he said. “It was just surreal. Now, I’m in the Olympics. Tons of media. It’s pretty crazy.”

He rushed eight times in his Michigan debut and gained 8 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown run.

When he was asked what he remembered about his time at Michigan, he quickly mentioned that run.

“My first touchdown in the Big House,” he said. “It wasn’t real to me. It was overwhelming to me, as an 18-year-old kid. Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. It’s been 10 years, I think, since I played in the Big House. I was 18 when I played. It’s come full circle.

Playing in front of 110,000 people. Just a kid. That was amazing to me. Hearing my name announced in the starting lineup, being in the locker room and hearing it.”

Photos: See  USA’s gold medalists!

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