Damar Hamlin: Fans, players boost charity of critically injured Buffalo Bills safety

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) tackles the Cincinnati Bengals' Tee Higgins (85) during the first quarter of Monday Night Football at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati on January 2. Hamlin was injured on the play, suffering cardiac arrest. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 3 (UPI) -- NFL fans and players surged donations to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin's charity, as teammates and members of the Cincinnati Bengals kept vigil at the hospital in which Hamlin was in critical condition early Tuesday.

The 24-year-old was hit in the chest during a first-quarter tackle attempt against the Bengals during the Monday Night Football game in Cincinnati. He got back to his feet, but then collapsed to the ground.


The Bills said Tuesday morning that Hamlin's heart had stopped, but was restored by first-responders while he was on the field at Paycor Stadium.

He remained sedated at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where dozen of fans traveled to show their support for Hamlin, who was in his second season in the NFL.

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Jordon Rooney, Hamlin's marketing agent, said Monday night that the Bills safety slept with a breathing tube and his vital signs were "back to normal." Hamlin's family said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that they are "deeply moved by the prayers, kind words, and donations from fans around the country."


The family also thanked first responders and doctors caring for Hamlin. The Bills, who also thanked Hamlin's supporters, said Tuesday afternoon that Hamlin spent the night in intensive care and remained in critical condition.

The Chasing M's Foundation Community Toy Drive, a fundraiser organized by Hamlin, started with a goal of $2,500, but continues to receive a surge of donations and had raised more than $4.5 million by Tuesday.

Some of the donations came from fellow athletes, including San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey.

Bills and Bengals players and coaches were among the visitors late Monday and early Tuesday at UC Medical Center.

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The NFL announced early Tuesday that the Bills-Bengals game will not be resumed this week. The Bills' team plane left Cincinnati on Monday night.


Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart unexpectedly stops pumping, typical as a result of an electrical disturbance. The American Heart Association says that more than 356,000 cases per year are diagnosed -- outside a hospital -- in the United States. They often are fatal if appropriate steps aren't taken for immediate care.

Medical personnel attended Hamlin for more than 10 minutes, administering CPR and oxygen.

Former Detroit Lions wide receiver Chuck Hughes is the only known player to die on the field during an NFL game. Hughes sustained a heart attack, brought on by an undiagnosed heart disease, and died Oct. 24, 1971, at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. He was 28.

Hamlin entered the league as a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The McKees Rocks, Pa., native went to Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh before he joined the Bills.

Hamlin spoke to in 2021 about the odds he overcame to get to the NFL. At 12, he watched his dad get sentenced to prison for intent to sell drugs. He also said he had several friends die due to various acts of violence while growing up in McKees Rocks, which has one of the highest crime rates in the United States.


He faced more adversity at Pittsburgh, with various injuries keeping him off the field early on and impacting his mental health. Hamlin said he chose to attend Pittsburgh instead of accepting an offer from a more storied program so he could serve as an easy visual role model for his younger brother.

"I wanted to give him that image growing up that he can look back on and be able to model himself after. That's something I never had. I had a bunch of examples of what not to do. I want to give him a different example," Hamlin said.

The young defender also showed his commitment to community last year when he joined several other NFL players from Pittsburgh in hosting PGH2ThePros youth football camp. More than 300 boys attended that camp, free of charge, and received food, T-shirts and instruction from the NFL players.

"Damar Hamlin is the best of us," Pitt Football tweeted Monday night. "We love you, 3. Praying for you."

The Bills, who trailed 7-3 before the game stopped and then postponed, were scheduled to host the New England Patriots in their final regular-season game at 1 p.m. EST Sunday in Orchard Park, N.Y.


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