Bills’ Damar Hamlin unites communities beyond Buffalo

By Yusra A.

On January 2, 2023, Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during the Bills vs. Bengals game in Cincinnati, Ohio and was rushed into the emergency room. Hamlin’s condition was severe, not being able to breathe on his own and in a coma. This unexpected incident has given people a different lens not just in the world of football, but morally as well. 

The 24-year-old was drafted in 2021 as a safety. He was filling in for Micah Hyde who was injured this season. 

According to Billy Witz and Jenna Vrentas who wrote “On His Way to the N.F.L., Damar Hamlin was Determined to Give Back,” Damar Hamlin grew up in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, played football and attended the University of Pittsburgh. The support of his hometown influenced him to help others. He spoke at several youth football camps in order to help guide other youngsters who wanted to head in the same direction that he took.

In an article from AP News titled “Fans give millions to Damar Hamlin’s toy drive for kids,” author Tim Reynolds states that Damar Hamlin would help out his mother, Nina, from time to time at her daycare center, Kelly and Nina’s Daycare Center. In December of 2020, he started a toy drive to help needy children on GoFundMe with a goal of $2500. With the number still increasing, he has now made $9 million with the support of millions of NFL fans, teams and players, and people who just wanted to support his cause. 

Hamlin’s incident brought attention to the idea of morality and gave people a different perspective on how they see football. It reminds us not only how dangerous professional sports can be, but also how they can take a toll on one’s mental and emotional health. 

Grace Heidinger ’18, a reporter for the Buffalo Bills and SEM alumna, said that at the moment, her utmost priority was waiting for updates about Hamlin and knowing if he was okay. Her feelings of fear and confusion distracted her from any lingering thoughts about the game. Grace also said that she had never seen any injury like Hamlin’s before; much like everyone else, this was a great shock to her and her coworkers. “I truly believe that this will go down as one of, if not the scariest sights and situations in professional sports history,” she said.

To get more of a focus on the value of community, Grace shared stories about the community supporting Damar Hamlin’s charity and has written about Damar Hamlin’s life, not just as an NFL player, but also as a person. As a reporter, she thinks that her perspective has changed in a way that makes her value the importance of solidarity during this difficult situation.

When asked how her view of football has changed, Genevieve Manuele ‘26, SEM freshman, said that she loved to see the unity of the teams in supporting Damar Hamlin’s recovery. When Genevieve heard about the unfortunate scene, she thought that it was a great shock, but she also really admired the way everyone was supportive of Hamlin, stating “all of sudden seeing everyone kind of together was really nice and sweet.” 

Mrs. Greene, one of SEM’s history teachers, had the same thoughts of this incident being so unexpected, but she also said that it gave her a more human view of the players. She said, “It didn’t really change my perspective on the game, [I] was just thinking about how the players must feel.” More specifically, she talked about how the players go out on the field everyday, knowing that they might get injured. Her view of football has changed by seeing it not just as a source of entertainment, but also as an actual, serious career.

Hamlin has made people see football through his eyes and has created a sense of a tight-knit community within the world of football.

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