Near tragedy turns into fortune for NFL safety

Two years ago, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin set up a GoFundMe with a goal of raising $2,500 for a toy drive for his community.

 Today, Hamiln has not only received $2,500, he’s raised almost $9 million in one of the most unexpected events to ever happen in NFL history.

Hamlin was drafted in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. In his first year, he earned a spot behind Micah Hyde, a two time All-Pro and currently one of the best safeties in football. However, earlier this year, Hyde suffered a season-ending injury, and Hamlin became the starter.

During the Week 17 Monday Night Football game the Bills faced off against the Bengals for a top spot in the playoff standings, which could determine which team secured home field advantage for their respective postseason runs.

However the highly anticipated matchup did not finis. In one of the most horrific scenes I’ve seen in football, Hamlin made a tackle during the first quarter that caused him to suffer a cardiac arrest. He had to be resuscitated twice, once on the field and again at University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Growing up in a football family I have seen many injuries, more than half of my life I have played full tackle football and I have been watching it even longer. From broken collarbones to torn ACLs, nothing was more chilling than watching Hamlin collapse on national television. It was one of those moments you knew something was very wrong.

The game was ultimately canceled and some of Hamlin’s teammates stayed behind in Cincinnati to support him. However, the fans were not done that night, either.

Instead of partying after the game in Cincinnati, in an act of pure spontaneous kindness, hundreds of people, both Bills and Bengals fans, held candles outside of the Medical Center and prayed for his recovery. What happened in the next 24 hours was something of a miracle. Soon after the news broke nationwide, support began to come in and almost everyone across the country wanted updates on Hamlin’s condition.

During this time of waiting, the team’s fan base, known as Bills Mafia, began to show support by donating to the GoFundMe for his charity. In perhaps the greatest showing of kindness and support I have seen in the NFL, more than $5.5 million was raised in only less than 24 hours after his injury.

In addition to fans, other players, coaches and even owners from around the league also donated. For a while it seemed the entirety of the football world was rooting for the same team, Team Hamlin.

After a few days Hamlin woke up and asked the doctors “Did we win?”

They told him “Yes, you won the game of life.”

With Hamlin now out of the hospital the question now is, what will he do?

According to his doctors he has no neurological or lung damage and he is expected to make a full recovery. With almost $9 million raised in total the 24-year-old plans on teaming up with a non-profit organization called The Giving Back Fund.

Hamlin’s goal is to support the youth through education and sports. He also made a new T-shirt with the phrase “Did we win?” with the help of his apparel company, Chasing M’s.

He plans on using all the proceeds towards his non-profit ventures. In a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Hamlin has been given the resources to not only help himself during these hard times but also the opportunity to help those around him who need it the most.