Damar Hamlin, who collapsed during a Jan. 2 NFL game in Cincinnati, has returned to Buffalo to continue his recovery.
With him, hopefully, is a piece of the Wilmington High School football program.
Hurricane assistant football coach Koury Johnson, who lives in Cincinnati, delivered a signed football to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center last Friday. Johnson gave the ball with signatures and names of Hurricane players and coaches to a nurse there. The nurse said the ball would be delivered to Hamlin, WHS head football coach Ryan Evans said.
According to the Associated Press, Hamlin, 24, returned to Buffalo on Monday to continue his recovery in a hospital there, a week after going into cardiac arrest and having to be resuscitated on the field.
Hamlin was discharged from UCMC Monday morning and flown to western New York. He was listed in stable condition at Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute.
Hamlin’s heart stopped on Monday night after making what appeared to be a routine tackle in the first quarter against the Bengals. The game was initially suspended before officially being canceled later in the week.
“When it happened, it didn’t hit me initially,” Evans said. “After about the fourth commercial … man, I’m thinking this is serious. I stayed up until 1 o’clock in the morning waiting to hear what it was. It didn’t look good.”
As news continued to come out regarding Hamlin, Evans began processing the situation.
“I sat on it for a few days,” he said. “Then I thought ‘What can we do to lift up the spirits?’ It’s a gesture … that we’re thinking about him. We wanted him (Hamlin) to know he has an extended family here in Wilmington.”
Evans has built a relationship with Hamlin’s collegiate defensive coordinator, Randy Bates. “Coach Bates has been good to me in my career,” Evans said. “He was the first college coach to come here (Wilmington) after I got the job. I reached out to him. He said Damar is a great kid.”
Evans met with Hurricane parents last week, prior to the delivery of the football, and said the response has been overwhelming.
“I even had one lady email me and said she has kids who go to Wilmington, but aren’t part of the football program, and she just loved the fact we did this,” Evans said.
Doctors said Hamlin has been walking since having a breathing tube removed on Friday, eating regular food and undergoing therapy. They said he was on a normal or even accelerated trajectory in his recovery from cardiac arrest, which is considered a life-threatening event, and that normal recovery can be measured from weeks to months.
“Headed home to Buffalo today with a lot of love on my heart,” Hamlin said in a tweet. “Watching the world come together around me on Sunday was truly an amazing feeling.”
The 24-year-old from the Pittsburgh area has made significant progress in his recovery since spending his first two days at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center under sedation and breathing through a ventilator.
He was awakened on Wednesday night and was eventually able to grip people’s hands. By Friday, Hamlin was able to breathe on his own and even addressed the team by videoconference, telling the Bills, “Love you boys.”
The last update from doctors came on Saturday, when they described Hamlin’s neurological function as “excellent,” though he remained listed in critical condition.
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, via email [email protected] or on Twitter @wnjsports