Texans players share the impact of Damar Hamlin

A painting and other items to honor Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin were left outside of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. A vigil was held Tuesday, January 3, 2023, for Hamlin collapsed during the Monday Night Football game with the Bengals. Hamlin remains in critical condition at the UC Medical Center. Vigil8

Texans players share the impact of Damar Hamlin

Several Houston Texans players were former teammates of Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin.

The terrifying scene of a player collapsing on the field of play is one that everyone knows is a potential situation but one we block from our collective consciousness. The fact it happens so rarely allows us to remove it from our minds and disregard the inherently dangerous nature of a game as physical as football.

It was all rushed to the forefront Monday night when the Buffalo Bills were playing the Cincinnati Bengals. Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin collapsing to the turf, a medical emergency situation requiring EMTs to resuscitate Hamlin and restart his heart. Players on both sides clearly distraught at a fallen brother, regardless of the uniform he wears at the time.

Players from opposing teams competing for postseason advantage came together in prayer for Hamlin, and nothing else mattered.

The fraternity of NFL players is a small one, and nearly every team in the league has felt some sort of impact from what happened Monday night. The Houston Texans are no exception.

Several members of the Texans are former teammates of Hamlin at either the collegiate or NFL level. Texans offensive lineman Jimmy Morrissey has known Hamlin since high school and spoke highly of his former college teammate at Pitt.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to know Damar (Hamlin) since my senior year of high school, and then played five years at Pitt (University of Pittsburgh) with him. He’s a great guy, comes from a great family, great family man. I’m sure you guys have seen on Twitter an interview resurfaced when he was in high school why he chose to stay at Pitt and not go to Ohio State, Notre Dame. He had like every offer, and he said the main reason was to be like a role model to his younger brother. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s a great competitor, loves the game of football. He’s just a great guy. Tragedy happened to him. It’s really sad, but Damar is a great, great guy.”

Morrissey described watching his former teammate and friend fight for his life on live television.

“I did see it live. I was watching at my apartment with Charlie Heck, who was over. It was scary. At first, I thought it was just a concussion or something. Then, obviously, the ambulance. What really freaked me out was the sideline reaction. I’ve never seen anything like that before from teammates. I called a teammate of mine, speaking to on the phone, trying to get any update we could. A lot of rumors were floating around and stuff no one really had an answer to. It was scary. It was really scary to watch live.”

Football players are supposed to be superhuman. They’re stronger, faster, and more agile than nearly anyone. They aren’t supposed to go down like this. Sure they suffer injuries; that is part of the combat on the field of play. Sometimes there are non-contact injuries that involve a knee or an Achilles. Just not like this, not for a young man who was a star athlete, as Morrissey told how Hamlin wound up at Pitt.

“Damar (Hamlin) was a hometown kid from Pitt who was an All-American. Everybody knew him. He was the man on campus from day one. I just remember Damar being very inclusive. When you’re a freshman in college, and you’re playing football, we were the first recruiting class coach Narduzzi had. There was about 30 of us. Everybody gets on campus, and you’re trying to be the guy, trying to be the alpha, feel people out. Damar (Hamlin) didn’t buy into that. He was very comfortable with who he was. He knew he was the big man on campus. He included everybody if guys were going to do something on the weekends or if there was extra work. He was very inclusive of everybody. Always nice to me from day one and just a supportive guy. I just have good memories of Damar, especially when I first met him. He was really nice to me. I was a walk-on, and he was our No. 1 recruit.”

Hamlin’s nature of leading and giving back was on display as quickly following his medical crisis, messages and videos regarding his toy drive started going viral. His toy drive, for which he was hoping to raise $2500, exploded to over $300,000 within an hour. It has now grown to over $5.5 million.

Texans defensive Kurt Hinish was a high school teammate of Hamlin’s at Central Catholic High School; an all-boys prep school in Pittsburgh. Hinish was one grade behind Hamlin. Hinish referred to Hamlin as a role model type person.

“He’s a great football player but an even better person. Speaking from my relationship and me observing his relationship with his family, he’s a super family-oriented kind of kid. He obviously chose to stay home in Pittsburgh and go to the University of Pittsburgh to set a great example for his younger brother and everyone else he grew up with in that community. He means a lot to them and will continue to mean a lot to them. The example that he sets for everyone in that community is second to none, and it’s admirable in the way he carries himself and the role model he is for his younger brother and everyone in that community. Everyone in Pittsburgh.”

Hinish has high hopes that Hamlin can recover, and referenced his personal traits as someone with the right mindset to overcome the toughest situations.

“We trained together back home too, during the summer. We’ve known each other since I’ve been a freshman in high school, working out together for all these years. Mentally, he’s just such a strong person that if anyone was put to this test, if I could see anybody coming out on the other side of this, it would be him. Just the mental fortitude that he has and the way we train, just the way he carries himself every day, that means a lot. From an outsider’s point of view, if it’s anyone that’s going to pull through this and come out fantastic and better than he was, it’s going to be him. That’s just the kind of kid he is.”

Hinish described his emotions seeing everything unfold and the role your newly realized mortality suddenly plays.

“I was telling someone yesterday, it’s one thing when you see something like that happen on TV. It’s another thing when you see something like that happen on TV when you know the person, when you have a relationship with that person. It kind of means more because I play football in the NFL. He plays football in the NFL. It just kind of puts things into perspective. It really hits you harder because you know that person. You know that person’s family. You see his younger brother running around, and the role model Damar (Hamlin) is for his family. You can only imagine what’s going on with them.”

Head coach Lovie Smith mentioned how many coaches and players had connections to Hamlin on the team. Defensive linemen Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison played with him last season in Buffalo. Defensive line coach Jacques Cesaire coached in Buffalo last season.

He also mentioned the number of coaches on the Bills’ staff he has coached with.

“I have not had a chance to talk to coach (Sean) McDermott. On the Buffalo Bills staff, three of their staff have been on staffs that I’ve been a part of too. Leslie Frazier, Rob Boras, and Eric Washington. Bobby Babich also, so four guys I know personally. What we all did, like everyone, is trying to reach out, ‘What you can do to support you? We’re praying for you.’ A lot of our guys have already, of course, made donations. But what can we do? You feel their pain and know exactly what they’re going through. Sometimes people just knowing that you’re supporting them is enough to maybe make it a little bit easier. That’s what we’ve done so far.”

Players, coaches, and fans across the nation have all united in prayer, hoping for Damar Hamlin to recover.

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