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NFL Player’s comeback is 2023’s most inspiring sports story

Buffalo Bills cornerback Damar Hamlin and fans supporting him after injury

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John Touhey - published on 12/30/23

Last January, Damar Hamlin’s heart stopped beating during a football game. Now he's back on the field and giving back to his community and those who saved him.

Athletes are a source of inspiration for many of us. In their often-grueling training routines, they highlight the value of hard work and diligence. Even athletes who engage in individual sports depend upon coaches, trainers, and other athletes, and show the importance of teamwork. Most importantly, athletes are aware of the fragility of the human mind and body. Many develop strong relationships with God, aware of their dependence upon a strength greater than any they can attain.

2023 saw a number of athletes who overcame adversity with the help of love and a positive spirit – but no story was as incredible or uplifting as that of NFL cornerback Damar Hamlin.

Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during an NFL game on January 2, 2023
Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during an NFL game on January 2, 2023

A shocking moment and a surprising return

It was on January 2, 2023, that Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during an NFL game as millions of viewers looked on in horror. Many thousands offered prayers as he lay unconscious on the field and medics tried to revive him. Remarkably, Hamlin returned to the field months later to resume his football career. He has played in only a few games for the Bills this season, but Hamlin’s story continues to inspire.

An alumnus of Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School, Damar Hamlin credited his survival and comeback to God. A recent Instagram post expressed his relationship with the Lord in a vivid way: “know I’m God Scent you can smell it on me ..” And back on Thanksgiving, he posted: “God you didn’t have to choose me, but you did and I’m thankful you made the right choice!”

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A post shared by DaⓂ️ar Hamlin <3 (@d.ham3)

“… a purpose greater than any game in this world”

At an award ceremony at the beginning of the year, Hamlin said that his outlook on life had changed. “My vision was about playing in the NFL and being the best player I could be. But God’s plan was to have a purpose greater than any game in this world. My entire life, I felt like God was using me to give others hope. And now with a new set of circumstances, I can only say He’s doing what He’s always done. I have a long journey ahead, a journey full of unknowns and a journey full of milestones. But it’s a lot easier to face your fears when you know your purpose.”

That sense of purpose included giving back to the community. In the immediate aftermath of Hamlin’s injury, a Toys for Tots drive that he was leading raised over 8 million dollars. His Chasing M’s Foundation, “dedicated to the development, health, and safety of youth through sports, engagement activities, training, and programming,” also recently announced that they will distribute 10 scholarships to Cincinnati youths in honor of the 10 members of the medical team that saved his life.

Damar Hamlin is considered to be a favorite to win this season’s NFL Comeback Player of the Year (though he is facing competition from Joe Flacco, another player who stands out for his positive attitude). Regardless of the outcome, Hamlin has already proved to be a shining light on and off the field.

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