Sitting in a hospital room recovering from his terrifying collapse on the field during the Buffalo Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Jan. 2, Damar Hamlin decided he did not want his football journey to be over. Hamlin watched games — watched other safeties play instead of him — and realized it was fueling his love for the game.
The process was going to be a slow one, but he took an important step toward a return Tuesday when the Bills announced Hamlin had been fully cleared to resume football activities.
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) April 18, 2023
Speaking with the media following the announcement, Hamlin said he wants to encourage others by showing that it is possible to keep moving forward in the midst of fear and uncertainty.
“I just want to show people that fear is a choice, that you can keep going in something without having the answers and without knowing what’s at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “You might feel anxious. You might feel any type of way, but you just keep putting that right foot in front of the left one and you keep going. I want to stand for that.”
Hamlin said doctors determined his collapse was caused by commotio cordis, which occurs when an object strikes the chest at a “very critical time” during a heartbeat, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The 25-year-old told FOX Sports’ Michael Strahan in February that while he wanted to continue playing football, he was surrendering his future to God and simply felt grateful to be alive.
“That’s always the goal, like I said, as a competitor, you know, I’m trying to do things to keep advancing my situation,” Hamlin said during the interview. “But I’m allowing that to be in God’s hands. I’m just thankful He gave me a second chance.”
"The wow moment is everyday being able to wake up. I died on national TV in front of the whole world."
– Damar Hamlin pic.twitter.com/2tVeXBwF8m
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) April 18, 2023
Bills team chaplain Len Vanden Bos recently joined the Sports Spectrum Podcast to discuss his role in helping guide the organization through such difficult circumstances and the spiritual growth he saw from some of Hamlin’s teammates, including quarterback Josh Allen. Vanden Bos was on the sideline when Hamlin collapsed and found himself leading the team in prayer as he was trying to process what had happened.
“The only thing I could get out of my mouth as I prayed was, ‘Lord, bring him back,'” he said on the podcast. “That’s all I could say. I was very emotional. I was crying. I was trying to choke words out, but it was ‘Lord, bring him back. Lord, bring him back.'”
One of the things Vanden Bos tried to emphasize to the team in the aftermath of Hamlin’s remarkable recovery was that believing God is real should have far-reaching implications on everyday life.
“It’s a wake-up call for all of us that witnessed that,” he said on the podcast. “We now are witnesses, if you will, to what God did in our midst. And by God’s grace He spared us. How is that going to impact your life, this reality thing about God? Are you going to now pursue Him? Are you going to obey Him? Are you going to reach out and build a relationship with Him? What are you going to do with this? That really is what I hope comes out of this, much more than some of the other things.”
Now that Hamlin has been fully cleared, the next step is getting his body back into peak physical condition. He said he is still working through everything mentally and wants to take it day by day.
Trusting in God will continue to be a critical part of his recovery process.
“I’m riding the roller coaster of emotions,” Hamlin said Tuesday. “I’m taking it one day at a time, and I’m trusting God, you know? I’m walking by faith.”
– SS PODCAST: Bills chaplain Len Vanden Bos on adversity, prayer & Damar Hamlin
– Bills’ Damar Hamlin says God is ‘using me as a vessel’ in first video since collapse
– INSIDE THE CHAPEL: Chaplains Ikki Soma & Reza Zadeh on Damar Hamlin
– Bills QB Josh Allen describes ‘spiritual awakening’ in events with Damar Hamlin
– Damar Hamlin, Josh Allen praise God as Bills end regular season with win: ‘God’s real’
– Bills coach Sean McDermott on Damar Hamlin’s improvement: ‘Glory to God’
– Dan Orlovsky prays for injured Bills safety Damar Hamlin live on ESPN
– Millions of dollars in donations pour in for Damar Hamlin’s community toy drive
– Prayers flood in for Damar Hamlin after Bills safety collapses on field