Damar Hamlin, the NFL football player from the Buffalo Bills, possesses an unwavering love for the game. Beyond football, he finds joy in working with children and spearheads a toy drive to bring smiles to their faces.
However, tragedy struck when he suffered a cardiac arrest on the field. Remarkably, Hamlin has not only recovered physically but has also become an inspiration to many, demonstrating resilience and the power of determination.
On March 24, 1998, Nina and Mario Hamlin welcomed their son Damar into the world. Damar was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, and attended Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, approximately five miles from home.
It seems Hamlin was made to play football right from his first day in high school.
Damar's Love Of Football Led To Early Success
Damar stood six feet and one inch by the time he graduated high school. Hamlin excelled playing football as a Safety on defense.
In 2016, he was given the Class AAAA Defensive Player of the Year Award and the first-team All-State. Damar was a four-star recruit and was recruited by many of the nation's top colleges.
Home Is Where Damar's Heart Was
Hamlin was his high school's top recruit pursued by prominent programs across the U.S. Some established football colleges such as Penn State, Ohio State, Temple, and Pittsburgh expressed their public interest in Damar playing for them.
From all of the choices that Hamlin had of which place he would take his game to the next level on his way to the NFL, Damar chose the University of Pittsburgh. Being close to his family played a role in his decision to play for the Panthers.
Hamlin Went From Red Shirt To Team Captain At Pitt
As a freshman, Hamlin was in his third game of the season before he suffered an injury. He was forced to be on the sidelines for three weeks until he was deemed healthy to return.
He played in nine games that season, registering 41 tackles and an interception as the Panthers' safety.
Forget A Dream...The NFL Became Hamlin's Reality
In his last season for the Panthers, Damar, who was no longer a red shirt, was named the team's captain. He led Pitt with 66 tackles and broke up seven passes.
This is why he was named to the All-ACC second team. Hamlin's progression from the sidelines to his selection for one of the conference's top defensive awards. The next stop for Damar was the NFL.
"With the next pick...the Buffalo Bills select Damar Hamlin!"
Despite receiving accolades and awards for his defensive play in college, Hamlin was not drafted until the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo signed Damar to a four-year rookie contract. He mostly played a reserve role in his rookie season with the Bills but got his chance in his second NFL season.
In 2022, Damar Became The "Next man up!"
Like every new player in the NFL who has not played as much as they would have liked, they worked hard and waited for their opportunity to become a starter.
That dream was Damar's reality after a week two season-ending injury to starting safety Micah Hyde. Hamlin played well the rest of the season before his week thirteen ejection for an illegal hit.
Promise Turned Into Tragedy In 2023 For Hamlin
Once Hamlin became a starter, he made the most of it. In his second season, he made appearances in 15 games and earned the starting role in 13 of them.
Damar finished the 2022 regular season with 65 tackles and 1.5 sacks per game. His impressive defensive statistics promised to be a major factor in the Bills' playoff and Super Bowl drive until tragedy struck.
January 2, 2023, Is A Day Damar Will NEVER Forget
In the first quarter of a pivotal game with playoff implications for both the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals, football and sports suddenly did not matter.
On what has been described by NFL analysts, players, ex-players, and coaches as a routine play, Hamlin attempted to tackle the Bengals' Tee Higgins.
Suddenly Life Was More Important Than Football
Higgins presumably anticipated the physicality of the tackle coming from Hamlin and led with his helmet, striking Damar in his chest.
The force of the blow combined with it occurring precisely during a point in Hamlin's heartbeat made it the perfect storm for what was later reported as a cardiac arrest. Hamlin collapsed to the ground after he seemingly stood up without issue.
Bills And Bengals Players Watched Hamlin Breathlessly
Both teams watched with bated breath as paramedics and medical staff from the Bills and Bengals worked frantically on Hamlin.
Hamlin showed no signs of life immediately after the freak accident on the field. CPR and an AED were used before he was eventually revived. As fans in attendance, players, coaches, and the broadcasters struggled to deal with what they just witnessed, Damar was carted off the field in an ambulance.
The "Show" (Game) Must NOT Go On
Immediately following the aftermath of the accident, and once the raw emotion of the moment had a chance to settle, there needed to be a decision about the game.
Several reports at the time suggested the game would resume after each team had five minutes to warm up and recover from standing around. The game had barely started, but the coaches on each sideline decided to postpone for a later date.
No Game, No Results
Play on the field in Cincinnati was stopped with over five minutes left in the first quarter. At 10 pm, the conclusion that made the most sense was not to play the game.
In a statement released by the NFL the day after Hamlin's accident, it was decided that the game would not be replayed and neither team would suffer consequences in the standings.
Canceling The Game Was Made By The NFL
The decision was made not to replay the game or continue it from the time of Hamlin's injury by the NFL.
The league released a statement about their choice: "Not playing the Buffalo-Cincinnati game to its conclusion will have no effect on which clubs qualify for the postseason. No club would qualify for the postseason, and no club will be eliminated based on the outcome of this game."
Recovery For Damar Was Clouded With Uncertainty
While the Bills and Bengals were preparing for the playoffs, Damar was starting his journey to recovery. Hamlin remained in the Cincinnati hospital, where he was transported from the game.
Damar was sedated and supported by a ventilator. Doctors had him lying on his stomach to ease the pressure on his lungs. The question of whether Hamlin will live still loomed over his future in football.
Remarkable Progress In Hamlin's Recovery 48 Hours Later
Remarkably less than 36 hours after suffering cardiac arrest and needing to be revived on the field in Cincinnati on January 2nd, Damar's condition was "trending upwards," according to his doctors.
The Buffalo Bills confirmed Hamlin's progress saying, "While still critically ill, he (Damar) has demonstrated that he appears to be neurologically intact. His lungs continue to heal, and he is making steady progress."
Hamlin Was Now Communicating With Doctors And Family
The recovery process for Damar Hamlin went from 0-100 quickly, surprising his doctors, family, teammates, and the world that was closely following his story.
Hamlin could nod and shake his head only because he was still using a breathing tube. He also used pen and paper to communicate with his family and physicians.
"Did We Win?"
When Hamlin woke up, the expectations were that he would be slightly disoriented and his memory might be clouded.
This was proven far from the case, as he demonstrated with his first question to the doctors and nurses caring for him, "Did we win?" The next day Damar was breathing on his own and even talked with teammates and coaches on FaceTime.
Damar's Going Home
To the astonishment of everyone following Damar's story, he was discharged from the hospital and transferred to one in Buffalo.
The whole world watched with joy and amazement as the reports of Hamlin being released from the hospital and sent home just nine days after his cardiac arrest on January 2nd. As a precaution, his heart was still monitored, and he had testing to undergo.
Support For Damar Was Overwhelming
Although Hamlin was still relying on oxygen, he slowly began to make public appearances. Talk shows, award shows, and schools demanded most of Damar's time because his story was inspirational.
Fans of other NFL teams and in other sports who were paying close attention to Hamlin's recovery progress showed their support for him with candles, signs, plush toys, and flowers.
Damar Went To The White House
Far be it for Damar to rest on his laurels, and everyone would understand if he took life a little slower while he recovered.
Nearly a month after he was deceased (only for a few minutes), Hamlin went to the White House to support the Access to AEDs Act which calls for all schools to have AED units and assist them with getting them.
Football Was Always Second Place To Helping Kids
For Damar, football was important, but it was not life. Before his NFL career, Hamlin started a charity toy drive for kids in his community.
Damar's goal for his GoFundMe campaign, which he started in 2020, was a modest $2,500. That total climbed into the millions from donations by fans internationally weeks after Damar's accident.
Chasing M's Foundation
Hamlin's charity, named Chasing M's (Millions) Foundation, saw a record-breaking spike beyond its initial goal. The latest count had the GoFundMe account at a total of over $9 million.
Incredibly, the foundation raised over $8.5 million of the total two weeks after Damar was rushed off the field in Cincinnati to the hospital.
Before The NFL, Helping Kids Was His Passion
The charity organization has taxation legalities to overcome, but one certainty is who the money raised is for, the children.
There is an irony the "M" in Chasing M's stands for millions because it achieved it, despite the goal only being $2,500. Although there is no official word on how the charity's money will be distributed, Hamlin maintains his gratitude and focus in every public appearance, which has become numerous.
Hamlin Overcomes Adversity To Be Rewarded And Honored
It is not only a tremendous story of what Damar Hamlin had gone through and conquered his journey earned him an NFL award dedicated to that subject matter.
Adding to Hamlin's inspirational tale is that he won the George Halas Award, voted on by Pro Football Writers of America, for any NFL staff member who overcame adversity and succeeded.
Hamlin's Net Worth Is More Than A Total
In the NFL world, it is noteworthy that Damar is under contract for four years and $3.6 million and has an estimated net worth of just over $650,000.
Ask the children in the Chasing M's Foundation how much Hamlin means to them. Before and after his incident, he was all about supporting local children and underprivileged youth.
So What's Next For Damar?
Another date that Damar will never forget is April 18, 2023, the day his doctor declared Hamlin fit to return to playing football.
It took Damar less than half the day of his doctor's clearance to officially announce his intention to play football again. In addition to his announcement, Hamlin explained in detail the heart condition he was diagnosed with.
The Diagnosis: Commotio Cordis
Doctors diagnosed Damar with Commotio Cordis, a medical condition characterized by a sudden disruption of the heart's electrical rhythm due to a blunt impact to the chest, typically occurring during physical activities like sports.
As everyone who followed Hamlin's story learned, this condition can lead to cardiac arrest and potentially life-threatening consequences.
Introducing Damar Hamlin, The Fashion Designer
Chasing M's is a charitable organization that raises funds and collects new toys for children first. Hamlin's foundation was initially promoted through colorful T-shirts. What it became and revealed was yet another side of Damar.
Hamlin has expressed his fashion sense through his clothing line, which is naturally called, Chasing Millions.
Damar's Future Is As Bright As His Smile
Without question, one of the biggest media stories in 2023 was about Damar Hamlin. To have a cardiac arrest, cease to live for minutes, and then recover to return to play is enough of an incredible story.
What is more inspirational about Hamlin's tale is how much it influenced NFL fans of every team located worldwide and people who do not watch football to give more of themselves.