“That moment was everything to me,” Hamlin, 25, told reporters of his run through the tunnel with his Buffalo Bills teammates on Sunday, October 1. He was the last player on the field during the team’s matchup against the Miami Dolphins.
“I think it was more so about promising to myself than anything else — just showing myself that I have the courage, I got the strength, that I got the pride, everything … in me to be able to go through something so traumatic and to be able to come back from it,” Hamlin continued. “To be able to still do what I love at the highest level in the world is amazing.”
Hamlin made his first regular season appearance on Sunday after suffering cardiac arrest during a January 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. While he was listed as healthy for the first three weeks of the season, he didn’t get the chance to play until Bills starting safety Jordan Poyer was sidelined with a knee injury. Before Sunday’s game, Hamlin played in all three of Buffalo’s preseason games, racking up a total of nine tackles.
Damar Hamlin #3 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the game against the Miami Dolphins at Highmark Stadium on October 1, 2023, in Orchard Park, New York.Bills coach Sean McDermott was also thrilled by Hamlin’s return to the field, saying it was a “surreal moment” to watch him come out with the team. “He deserves the attention he gets. I love the fact that he makes it about the team in so many ways,” McDermott, 49, told reporters on Sunday. “Nine months ago, this young man is in the situation he was in, and now he’s back.”
Hamlin was hospitalized in January after a blow to the chest midgame caused him to collapse on the field. After receiving medical treatment on the field for about 20 minutes, Hamlin was rushed to the hospital. The game was delayed and eventually called off as Hamlin, then in critical condition, received treatment.
After spending a week in the hospital in Cincinnati, Hamlin was flown to Buffalo, where he spent an additional two days at Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute.
Hamlin said in April that he wanted to return to football after making a full recovery, and in May, he began practicing with the team again. Three months later, he admitted that he felt a “roller-coaster of emotions” about coming back.
“In football, you can’t hit that field with no hesitation,” he told reporters in August. “You’re putting yourself in more danger by doing that. I made the choice to play. I’m processing a thousand emotions. I’m not afraid to say that it crosses my mind of being a little scared here and there. My strength is rooted in my faith and my faith is stronger than any fear. That’s what I want to preach and that’s the message I want to spread to the world.”