AURORA, Colo. - When a gunman opened fire in the Aurora Century 16 theater, Zack Golditch, a 17-year-old football player at Gateway High School, was hit by a bullet in his neck.
But Golditch was fortunate during the shooting rampage that killed 12 people and injured 70.
"I was actually shot in the neck and it just missed the vertebrae," Golditch told 7NEWS from the hospital hours after the July 20 shooting. "It was just a clean in-and-out wound."
On a pre-Super Bowl feature Sunday, CBS Sports will profile Golditch and his dogged determination to recover from the shooting and quickly rejoin his teammates on the football field.
"Among those wounded," CBS producer Pete Radovich writes, "rising senior Zack Golditch of nearby Gateway High School. Shot through the neck, the 6-foot-5, 260 pound, 17-year-old became a symbol of strength and recovery as he fought his way back onto the football field."
The CBS "Super Bowl Today" pre-game coverage begins at 12 p.m. MT.
Golditch told 7NEWS that, as he sat in a theater next to theater 9, where accused gunman James Holmes allegedly was mowing down movie-goers, the high school senior thought the popping sounds were firecrackers that a prankster had tossed into the audience during the Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises."
"I just thought it was just fireworks," he said.
Then, he said, "some guy…got shot in the arm. The next thing I know, I kind of turn around and it just hits me in the back of my neck and I'm screaming kind of, because of the pain."
"I thought someone had tossed down, like a Black Cat (firecrackers) and it just blew up right behind my head," Golditch said. "I was just like, you know, I don't want to get hit with another one. So, my focus was just to get out of the theater."
The big teen jumped up and ran from the theater.
Outside, some construction workers helped Golditch and a police officer drove him in a patrol car to a hospital.
He recalled the hectic scene at the hospital, where doctors and nurses were triaging him and other gunshot victims surrounding him.
"It was just like ER," he said.
The burly offensive lineman was determined, despite his mom's objections, to rejoin his football teammates at practice.
"He said, 'Just because I have a gunshot wound, doesn't mean I can't go to practice,'" Christine Welch-Golditch told the Aurora Sentinel about her son. "That's just the way Zack is. He wanted to show others that there's no reason they shouldn't come to practice.'"
Golditch went on to play a key role in the Olympians achieving a 7-3 record and a berth in the state playoffs, the newspaper said.
Now, he's committed to playing football for the Colorado State University Rams.