Tomlin On Pittsburgh Native Damar Hamlin: 'It's A Really Personal Thing'

By Jason Hall

January 3, 2023

Photo: Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin shared a touching statement while addressing the hospitalization of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who went into cardiac arrest during the first quarter of Buffalo's since-postponed game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday (January 2) night.

Tomlin, who has coached the Steelers since 2007, said he knew Hamlin, a Pittsburgh native and former University of Pittsburgh standout, since the 24-year-old was roughly 12 years old.

"It's a really personal thing for me," Tomlin said during his press conference on Tuesday via CBS Sports. "Just got a lot of love and respect for him as a human being. 

"His commitment to the pursuit of his goals and dreams of doing what it is he's doing right now, which is playing in the NFL. To watch him make personal decisions and make that a realization, it's just an honor to get to know young people like that.

"Had an opportunity to express that to him whenever I see him. We've played Buffalo each of the last two seasons, and he and I get to have a moment. It's just cool to not only appreciate these guys in terms of where they are now, but to know them since they were younger people and to watch their maturation, their development, to watch them earn what they were chasing, it's just really a cool thing. He's an example of that. 

"I've got a lot of love for that young man. We lift him and that organization up in prayer." 

Hamlin collapsed suddenly on the field during Monday's game and was hospitalized, which the Bills later said was due to cardiac arrest.

"Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit in our game versus the Bengals," the Bills wrote. "His heartbeat was restored on the field and he was transferred to the UC Medical Center for further testing and treatment. He is currently sedated and listed in critical condition."

Hamlin tackled Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins during the first quarter of Monday's game and got back to his feet before suddenly falling to the ground. A stretcher and ambulance came onto the field and CPR was administered by first responders.

The second-year safety was reported to be critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed in an official statement on behalf of the league shared Monday night that also confirmed the official postponement of the game.

"Our thoughts are with Damar and the Buffalo Bills," the NFL said in its statement. "We will provide more information as it becomes available.

Hamlin was reported to have been intubated, according to FOX 19's Tricia Macke.

Jordon Rooney, a friend and marketing rep for the safety, had previously shared an update on Hamlin's status prior to the Bills' statement.

"His vitals are back to normal and they have put him to sleep to put a breathing tube down his throat. They are currently running tests. We will provide updates as we have them," Rooney tweeted at 10:54 p.m. ET on Monday.

Both teams were at midfield when Hamlin was taken away in the ambulance. Hamlin's family was with him when he was transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, which is located about two miles from Paycor Stadium.

The 24-year-old fell to the ground at around 8:55 p.m. and ESPN diverted its live broadcast from the field to the studio at around 9:08 p.m.

The game was temporarily suspended at 9:17 p.m. before being officially suspended nearly an hour later.

Hamlin was selected by the Bills at No. 212 overall in the sixth-round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The 24-year-old started in 13 of the 15 games he appeared in and recorded 91 tackles, six tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks during his second season.

A toy drive launched by Hamlin and his charity, the Chasing M's Foundation, raised more than $4 million hours after his hospitalization.

A total of $4,832,090 was raised as of Tuesday morning, far exceeding the charity's initial goal of $2,500, according to its GoFundMe page.

The top donors listed include All Elite Wrestling star Chris Jericho -- who appears to have made two donations totaling $10,000 -- Carpet Man Flooring and entrepreneurs Satish Dharmaraj and Arash Ferdowsi.

The GoFundMe page shared an update on Tuesday clarifying that further contributions would go toward Hamlin's current medical battle.

Paycor Stadium was also lit with blue lights honoring Hamlin and the Bills overnight.

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