Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills safety who came back to the NFL after suffering a cardiac arrest on Jan. 2, 2023 against the Cincinnati Bengals, has been named the league’s Comeback Player of the Year.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco, who led his team to a playoff berth after being signed midway through the season, was another frontrunner for the award. But even he knew it should go to Hamlin for what he’s been through just to get back on a football field this season.
Hamlin’s NFL future was the last thing on anyone’s mind when he went down at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati on “Monday Night Football” for the entire world to see. The tragic scene led everyone watching to only care about Hamlin’s health.
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Hamlin’s heart stopped on that field, and if it wasn’t for the swift actions of the Bills’ training staff, as well as those at the UC Health Trauma Center in Cincinnati, he wouldn’t be where he is today.
He certainly wouldn’t have been able to receive the Alan Page Community Award at last year’s NFL Honors, but even at that point, everyone wondered whether Hamlin would be back on a football field.
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Just months later, he was cleared for football activities, and Hamlin was able to make the Bills’ 53-man roster heading into his third NFL season.
The Bills used Hamlin sparingly for obvious reasons this season, making sure he was 100% healthy enough to play. He was able to suit up for five games, making two tackles.
Hamlin also played in the Bills’ playoff bout against the Kansas City Chiefs, where he infamously had a fake punt attempt – a direct snap in Bills territory – thwarted by Chiefs special teams in the team’s loss.
Despite the lack of playing time that he’s used to, Hamlin’s recovery efforts, the work the Bills and the rest of the league saw him put in just to be able to strap on his pads again, inspired the entire country.
“I never did it for the accolade,” Hamlin said to Fox News Digital prior to the award show. “I didn’t come back to win an accolade. I came back for the love to the game and prove something to myself. I set a goal and wanted to accomplish it.”
Hamlin said he has “big goals” for the 2024 season, which will be the last on his rookie contract.
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The fact he’s in the position to be thinking about another contract and more years in the NFL is inspiring to everyone that loves the game.