This is Pro Athlete 101. First hit as a big-league baseball player you keep the ball. First interception, first touchdown, first fumble recovery as an NFL player you keep the ball.
Somebody forgot to tell that to New York Giants’ rookie Dane Belton.
In his first NFL play on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, the fourth-round pick out of Iowa recovered a Chuba Hubbard fumble.
So, what did he do with the ball?
“I forgot to keep it. I ain’t gonna lie to you,” Belton said Thursday in the Giants’ locker room. “It was just in the moment and I was trying to celebrate with the crowd, my team. It was a moment that wasn’t just me, it was set up by all my teammates.
“I ended up not keeping it, but I had people asking me after the game ‘did you keep it?’ I should have, but hopefully next time I get a turnover I’ll be able to keep that ball.”
A Carter Coughlin hit caused the fumble. On Thursday, Coughlin didn’t appear to realize Belton didn’t keep the ball.
“That’s crazy,” Coughlin said. “It all happened so fast.”
Belton ended up playing 46 defensive snaps and 12 special teams snaps in his debut. He missed the preseason and Week 1 after breaking his collarbone in training camp. He finished with five tackles.
“I was just having fun playing,” Belton said. “Going throughout the game and trying to make plays and being out there with the team was great.”
It was an excellent debut for Belton. Except, that is, for the rookie mistakes with the ball on the fumble recovery.