Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin returned Sunday to the field where he suffered cardiac arrest during a game, less than a year after the tackle that changed his life.
Hamlin, 25, had not been back to Cincinnati’s Paycor Stadium since the midgame cardiac event in January that nearly killed him.
“We made the right steps as far as just addressing the elephant in the room,” Hamlin said on NBC’s “TODAY” show of his team’s return to the stadium. “But, ultimately, our focus all week has been about coming up here to get a win.”
Hamlin collapsed on the field on Jan. 2 after he tackled a Bengals receiver during a game broadcast on “Monday Night Football.” He was given CPR on the field, and taken to the hospital in critical condition.
Less than four months later, Hamlin announced he was cleared to play football again. Three specialists said he would not have any increased risk for injury, according to The Associated Press.
Though Hamlin did not play during Sunday’s game — he’s only gotten into one game for the Bills so far this season — he said just returning to the stadium gave him a sense of closure.
“I think it’s just a direct reflection of being able to get knocked down getting back up. I think that’s the story of life,” he said. “We all go through tough times. We all go through adversity.
“Being able to get knocked down … in front of the entire world and then come into that same stadium and stand in whatever role that I have and support my team — I think that shows a lot of strength, a lot of courage, a lot of pride, a lot of confidence.”
The Bengals beat the Bills, 24-18, but Hamlin’s trip to Ohio was about more than just football.
The former University of Pittsburgh star met with 10 of the health care workers who helped save his life, and he announced the launch of a new scholarship called Cincinnati Heroes, part of his Chasing M’s Foundation, which focuses on helping underserved students.
For the next three years, the scholarship will select 10 children and give them $1,000 each. The money will be donated in the names of the Hamlin’s caregivers.
Two of the medical professionals who were on the field in January, respiratory therapist John Bush and emergency medicine specialist Dr. Woods Curry, were also working on the sidelines during Sunday’s game.
“It’s like a homecoming,” Curry said. “It’s bringing everything full circle. Damar became apart of our family here in Cincinnati last year, and he remains so.”
Hamlin told “TODAY” that Cincinnati was now his “third family.”
“I got Pittsburgh, I got Buffalo and I got Cincinnati,” he said. “So it’s love.”