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Damar Hamlin: What to know about Bills safety who suffered cardiac arrest during game

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was a part of a terrifying situation on Monday night when he suffered cardiac arrest after a hit on Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins.

The Bills said Hamlin needed his heartbeat to be restored on the field after he collapsed. He was rushed to a Cincinnati hospital where he remained in critical condition.

But as fans waited to hear more about the 24-year-old safety, more information about Hamlin’s background came to light. As fans offered their thoughts and prayers, many began to donate to a charity he began during his final season at the University of Pittsburgh.

Hamlin is from McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, and attended Pittsburgh Central Catholic. He attended the same high school as Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino and two-time Super Bowl champion Stefen Wisniewski.

He played college football alongside current Bills teammate Dane Jackson and the two have since become good friends. He earned ACC co-Defensive Player of the Week honors in November 2020 after he recorded 11 tackles against Virginia Tech. He would later be named to the all-ACC Second Team.

He would go on to earn his bachelor’s in communication from Pittsburgh.

Damar Hamlin #3 of the Pittsburgh Panthers warms up prior to the game against the Marshall Thundering Herd at Heinz Field on October 1, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Damar Hamlin #3 of the Pittsburgh Panthers celebrates with Cam Bright #38 and Jason Pinnock #15 during the third quarter against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome on October 18, 2019 in Syracuse, New York.

Hamlin turned pro following the 2020 season. The Bills selected him in the sixth round. He got his start on the Bills’ special teams in his rookie season and played 125 snaps with the squad. He wouldn’t earn playing time with Buffalo until this season after multiple injuries in the secondary.


Damar Hamlin #3 of the Buffalo Bills reacts after a missed Pittsburgh Steelers field goal during the second quarter at Highmark Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York.

He started 13 of the 15 games he appeared in before Monday’s game against the Bengals. He recorded 91 total tackles, six tackles for a loss, three QB hits and 1.5 sacks in that span.

Notably, Hamlin wanted to make a positive impact on the world. He created the Chasing M’s Foundation and launched a holiday toy drive for his hometown in 2020 – right before he became a member of the Bills.

“The idea popped in my head right after Clemson week,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at the time. “It sparked a thought in my head. But I actually couldn’t do anything until after my eligibility was done as far as GoFundMe and all that. So it’s been a solid week and a half of preparation for the toy drive.

Damar Hamlin #3 of the Buffalo Bills walks to the tunnel during halftime against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Highmark Stadium on October 09, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York. 

“This was all able to happen off that short amount of time. That just goes to show the support that the town, the city, all of Pitt fans, and the University of Pittsburgh, everyone that grew up watching me and knew my story personally and have been a part of it, that’s just a testament to how much they support me.”

NFL fans came together Monday night to raise millions of dollars for his charity.

Hamlin is the son of Mario and Nina Hamlin and has one brother. A video also circulated of Hamlin earlier this season of him hugging his mother before a game. She was reportedly in attendance at Paycor Stadium and rode with him to the hospital.

Bills players sent their thoughts and prayers on social media.

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