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Fans keep praying as Damar Hamlin recovers

The Buffalo Bills’ safety is doing well after collapsing on the field

A stadium video monitor before an NFL game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans on Saturday Associated Press/Photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack

Fans keep praying as Damar Hamlin recovers

Even after learning that Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin had awakened in the hospital and was recovering well, NFL players and fans continued to rally around him and pray.

Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on Jan. 2 after tackling Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins during a Monday Night Football matchup of NFL division leaders. Players on both teams—as well as millions of fans watching on national TV—saw Hamlin stumble backward, fall to the ground, and lay lifeless as he received CPR. An ambulance took him off the field to a nearby hospital. Over the next 24 hours, calls for prayers on the 24-year-old’s behalf surged across television and social media. Dan Orlovsky, a former NFL quarterback and a Christian who works as an analyst for ESPN, even prayed for Hamlin on the air.

It wasn’t just Christians who were praying, either.

“At times like this, you feel helpless,” longtime Bills fan Richard Quodomine of Philadelphia, who is Jewish, said the day after Hamlin’s collapse. “This isn’t entirely in human hands anymore. We’re all praying that God will intervene.”

In the days that followed, the news of Hamlin’s progress was generally positive: On Friday, multiple news outlets reported that when Hamlin awoke, he immediately asked his doctors, “Did we win?” He was referring to the Bills-Bengals game, which the NFL suspended with Cincinnati leading 7-3 with less than six minutes remaining in the first quarter. The game won’t be rescheduled. The league playoffs loom next weekend.

One doctor reportedly told Hamlin, “The answer is yes—you won the game of life.”

Hamlin later made a video call to a meeting of his teammates, telling them, “Love you, boys.”

As Hamlin lay in the hospital, money poured into the football player’s charity, the Chasing M’s Foundation, which Hamlin started to raise money to buy toys for poor children in his native McKees Rocks, Pa. Hamlin’s initial goal was to raise $2,500. By Sunday, the charity had received more than $8 million—including donations from NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Russell Wilson of the Denver Broncos.

Hamlin remained the focus of much attention during the NFL’s final slate of regular-season games last weekend. On Saturday, players from the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars prayed together for Hamlin before their game.

Indianapolis Colts safety Rodney Thomas II was a teammate of Hamlin’s at Pittsburgh’s Central Catholic High. In the Colts’ game against the Houston Texans on Sunday, Thomas celebrated an interception by running to the 30-yard line, kneeling, and placing the ball on top of the 3—Hamlin’s jersey number.

“I’m never putting it aside,” said Thomas, who called Hamlin “my brother” and drove to Cincinnati from Indianapolis to see his former teammate after learning what happened. “I’m putting it right where it needs to be, right in my mind. I’m playing for him.”

Before the Bills’ 35-23 triumph over the New England Patriots at Buffalo’s Highmark Stadium on Sunday, players from both teams warmed up in shirts that read, “Love for Damar,” and, “Love for 3.” Fans around the stadium held up signs expressing similar sentiments.

A late-round draft pick out of the University of Pittsburgh, Hamlin earned a spot on the Bills’ roster in 2021 and quickly became a standout on special teams before landing a starting spot this season.

“He’s a fantastic story,” said Quodomine, the Bills fan from Philadelphia. “He came from a rough area, lost family members to drug and gun violence, and started a charity to buy toys for kids. For a sixth-round pick who had to fight for a roster spot, he’s done really well. Everybody loves him in that locker room.”

Quodomine thinks that people from multiple faiths praying for Hamlin represent the best of America—and serve as a powerful reminder that people can, and should, turn to God when bad things happen.

“The universe is bigger than ourselves,” Quodomine said. “We’re limited—we have to say, ‘Help us out here. You have the strength; You, as the universal Creator, have powers beyond what we understand. We need Your strength right now.’”

Now presumably the sentimental favorites to win the Super Bowl, the Bills will enter next weekend’s NFL playoffs seeded No. 2 in the AFC and will host the seventh-seeded Miami Dolphins. The third-seeded Bengals, meanwhile, will face the sixth-seeded Baltimore Ravens.

Ray Hacke

Ray is a sports correspondent for WORLD Magazine who has covered sports professionally for three decades. He is also a licensed attorney who lives in Keizer, Ore., with his wife Pauline and daughter Ava.



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