Damar Hamlin Tears Up as He Honors First Responders Who Saved His Life at ESPYS: 'It's a Blessing'
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Damar Hamlin Tears Up as He Honors First Responders Who Saved His Life at ESPYS: ‘It’s a Blessing’

Damar Hamlin is giving the spotlight to those who helped save his life.

The Buffalo Bills safety, 25, got emotional on stage at Wednesday night’s ESPY Awards as he honored the first responders who helped save his life after his cardiac arrest during a January game.

Before handing them the Pat Tillman Award for Service, Hamlin told his story in a video, saying, “I didn’t wake up that morning in January thinking that I would need someone to save my life that day, and I doubt that the staff thought that they had to do what they did either.”

“What I’ve taken away from what happened to me six and a half months ago, is that any of us at any given time are capable of doing something that’s incredible, in saving a life and living a life in service to others,” he continued.

“It’s a blessing. It’s a responsibility. And it’s the very reason why you’re hearing my voice right now. Anyone could be a hero. These are mine,” he said concluding the video.

As the first responders moved to the stage, Hamlin cried as he handed over the award to the group.

Nate Breske, the Buffalo Bills’ head athletic trainer, accepted the award on behalf of the rest of the staff saying, “I’m humbled and honored to be speaking tonight, representing the Buffalo Bills athletic training staff… By the grace of God and divine intervention, we had the best outcome we could have prayed for.”

“It was a massive army of specialists who came together on and off the field to do their jobs at night. That team includes the athletic trainers and medical staffs, equipment, managers, player, engagement, personnel, mental health clinicians, chaplains, security on field first responders, paramedics and the entire medical staff at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center,” he added.

The Pat Tillman Award for Service is an annual award given to an individual or individuals who serve others in the legacy of Tillman, who died in Afghanistan after enlisting following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Prior to the ceremony Marie Tillman Shenton, board chair and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation, released a statement on the decision to give the award — which had been given in the past to Gretchen Evans (2022), Kim Clavel (2020) and Jake Wood (2019) — to the first responders.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that last January when Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field, the training staff at the Buffalo Bills organization exemplified the utmost strength and resilience, jumping into action to perform life-saving measures when they were needed the most.” Tillman Shenton said.

“These professionals didn’t waste a moment before jumping into action for one of the most frightening scenarios they could have prepared for — on the world’s stage no less — and ultimately saving Damar Hamlin’s life through their quick and decisive teamwork,” she continued. “The group’s commitment to service mirrors Pat’s passion and dedication to serving others and our mission here at the foundation.”

Hamlin shocked the world when he collapsed on the field on January 2.

The emergency — which doctors say was caused by commotio cordis — halted the Monday Night Football game on January 2 between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals, and made international headlines as family, friends and fans awaited word about his status.

Hamlin eventually recovered from being in critical condition, leaving the hospital nine days later and showing his support for his teammates on the sidelines during the NFL playoffs. The Pennsylvania native said he’s been making “so much progress” and will hit the field again this fall.

Halmin also honored the medical personnel who acted swiftly to revive him at the  annual NFL Honors in February.

“I want to give a special thank you to everyone on this stage for everything they did for me,” Hamlin said at that event. “And thank you to everyone around the world who prayed for me and hoped for me. The journey will continue.”

The ESPYS also honored the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team with the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage “for their resilient fight for equal pay off the field,” and gave the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance to White Sox pitcher Liam Hendriks, who is now in remission from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


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