Damar Hamlin wanted to wait for the right time to speak publicly. While he’s posted on social media and spoken privately with teammates, on Saturday the Buffalo Bills defensive back released his first video since recovering from cardiac arrest and collapsing on the field during a Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2.
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Though it’s still unknown what caused Hamlin to enter cardiac arrest and collapse, it was the quick response from medical professionals that likely kept him alive. He used the video as a chance to thank those who did just that and continued to care for him and pray for him in the weeks since the incident.
He also used it as a chance to tell people about the work he feels God is doing in his life in the wake of it.
“What happened to me on ‘Monday Night Football’ I feel is a direct example of God using me as a vessel to share my passion and my love directly from my heart with the entire world,” he said. “I’m able to give it back to kids and communities all across the world who need it the most, and that’s always been my dream. That’s always been what I stood for and what I will continue to stand for.”
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In a nearly six-minute video, Hamlin thanked a number of people, including the first responders, the Bills medical staff and the doctors and staff at the University of Cincinnati Medical, where he spent the initial days recovering after the incident. He also thanked the doctors and staff at Buffalo General Hospital, where he was transferred after his condition improved, as well as his parents, family, friends, teammates and Bills fans.
His teammates and the entire Bills organization “made it a priority to lift me up spiritually, mentally and every way possible,” Hamlin said. He also thanked the city of Cincinnati, Bengals fans and football fans everywhere for “putting team allegiance aside to root for one kid’s life.”
Immediately after being transported to the hospital in Cincinnati, fans of both teams converged on the hospital property to pray for Hamlin and support one another. Across the NFL, teams and fans showed their support through shirts, flags, signs and stadium graphics that lifted Hamlin up and cheered on his recovery.
Plenty of people, including players and even members of the sports media, joined in the throng of those praying for Hamlin.
“You put humanity above team loyalty,” Hamlin said. “You showed the world unity over division. I’m not surprised by it, but I’m deeply grateful and I’ll be forever thankful and indebted to that.”
While Hamlin was recovering, people responded by donating millions of dollars to his “The Chasing M’s Foundation Community Toy Drive” on GoFundMe.com. What started with an initial goal of raising $2,500 in December 2020 has now raised more than $9 million as of 1 p.m. ET Sunday.
“My mind is blown away by the support,” he said. “I don’t even have the words to express my gratitude for the amount of support that was given.”
It was started as a small endeavor to give back to kids in his hometown of Keys Rocks, Pennsylvania, he said, but the recent generosity will allow him to broaden the scope of who he can reach.
“You guys have just took that and blown it away, and I’m so excited for the things that I have planned in the future for these kids all across the country now,” he said.
The Bills lost to the Bengals in the AFC divisional round of the playoffs, but the silver lining was that Hamlin was able to be in attendance.
We're so glad you're here, @HamlinIsland. #LoveForDamar | #BillsMafia pic.twitter.com/rxR7PX7I00
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) January 22, 2023
The Bills now look ahead to the 2023 season. How much Hamlin figures to be a part of that remains to be determined. Right now, he’s just grateful to be alive.
Whether he’s on the field or not, he said his mission won’t stop.
“I’m so thankful to everybody. I know that it isn’t enough just to be thankful,” he said. “This is just the beginning of the impact that I wanted to have on the world, and with God’s guidance I will continue to do wonderful and great things. I couldn’t do this without any of the support and love. I can’t wait to continue to take y’all on this journey with me.”
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