On January 2, Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest in the middle of a game between his Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. Doctors rushed to the field after he suddenly collapsed and fell to the ground after making a tackle – restarting his heart once on the field and a second time while at the hospital.
On Saturday (August 12), Hamlin made his official return to the gridiron in a preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts – just seven months after he nearly died on a football field on national television. While he was limited in action, he wasn’t limited in ability and it didn’t take him long to readjust to game action.
In fact, he was responsible for stopping the Colts on a 4th and 1 halfway through the first quarter – a big play that gave the Bills’ offense the ball with good field position. He ended up playing 24 snaps (20 on defense and 4 on special teams) and finished the game with three tackles – his Buffalo Bills won 23-19.
His return didn’t come without nerves, but that’s nothing new for the third-year safety – he actually likes it. In a post-game press conference, he recalled something his father always used to tell him about nerves. “‘You know that mean you care. That mean you ready,'” he said – and, boy, was he ready on Saturday.
“When I’m feeling those nerves and I’m feeling those emotions, it just means I, it means I love, I really love this,” Hamlin continued – adding that he wants to play, he wants to be here, he wants to do good, and he wants to be one of the greats in this game. He’s ready to show this league what he’s capable of.
“I want to be remembered as somebody who, you know, stood for something and who made a difference when I was out there on the field,” he said – praising himself for not letting the nerves get to him and never hesitating when on the field. In his eyes, hesitating during an NFL game only puts you at more risk.
After his team won, several people came up and asked Hamlin for a jersey swap – including his former teammate, Isaiah McKenzie, who now plays for the Colts. Instead, Hamlin ended up giving his jersey to his mother, Nina, who was in the stands on Saturday. He describes her as the ‘backbone’ of his life.
Head Coach Sean McDermott Praises Damar Hamlin
Ever since Damar Hamlin went down on January 2, he has received an overwhelming amount of love and support – not just from his team, but from the entire city of Buffalo and the sports world at large. Everyone was rooting for him and we coldn’t wait to see him out on that field again – now, he’s back and he’s ready.
“It’s a true sign of a young man’s courage and obviously everyone who helped him get to this point,” Bills’ head coach Sean McDermott said after his team’s 23-19 preseason win. “I know there was a football game going on out there today, but I mean truly remarkable display of courage and strength and faith.”
Hamlin wasn’t the only one nervous for his return. McDermott revealed that he communicated with Hamlin on Friday night to make sure he was ready to play and emphasize that there was no rush to get him back on the field. When Hamlin gave his coach the green light, McDermott trusted his player’s judgement.
“I was just kind of sitting near [the doctors], I said, ‘Hey, you’re going to watch him, right? Extra close today.’ They assured that they would,” McDermott said of his nerves during the game. “It’s hard for me to do that. I certainly watch him when I can, but I know he’s in good hands with those docs, as well.”
Damar Hamlin was drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the No. 212 overall pick (6th round) in the 2021 NFL Draft. He made his debut with the team on September 12, 2021 and has played in 29 games ever since – including 13 starts last season, when he recorded 91 tackles, 2 passes defensed, and 1.5 sacks.
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