Damar Hamlin wiped away the tears as he walked onstage during the 2023 ESPYS on Wednesday (Jul. 12), right before he presented the Pat Tillman Award for Service to the Buffalo Bills training staff that came to his aid after suffering cardiac arrest during a January NFL game. “Thanks to their training, their poise, and their commitment to serve others, the Bills’ training staff kept me alive,” Hamlin, 25, said in a video that played ahead of the award’s presentation, per People. “I didn’t wake up that morning in January thinking that I would need someone to save my life that day, and I doubt that the training staff thought that they would have to do what they did either.”
Damar Hamlin was brought to tears when presenting the Pat Tillman Award for Service to the training staff of the Buffalo Bills ❤️ 💙 pic.twitter.com/IThNKmREyC
— ESPN (@espn) July 13, 2023
“What I’ve taken away from what happened to me six and a half months ago is that any of us at any given time are capable of doing something that’s incredible, in saving a life and living a life in service to others,” he added. “It’s a blessing. It’s a responsibility. And it’s the very reason why you’re hearing my voice right now. Anyone could be a hero. These are mine.”
After Damar’s emotionally-charged introduction of the Bills’ coaching staff, head athletic trainer Nate Breske said, “By the grace of God and divine intervention, we had the best outcome we could have prayed for or imagined.” Breske also gave credit to the “massive army of specialists who came together on and off the field to do their jobs at night.”
“That team includes the athletic trainers and medical staffs, equipment, managers, player, engagement, personnel, mental health clinicians, chaplains, security on-field first responders, paramedics, and the entire medical staff at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center,” said Breske.
Before the ceremony, Marie Tillman Shenton, board chair and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation, released a statement about the first responders receiving this year’s award. “These professionals didn’t waste a moment before jumping into action for one of the most frightening scenarios they could have prepared for — on the world’s stage, no less — and ultimately saving Damar Hamlin’s life through their quick and decisive teamwork. The group’s commitment to service mirrors Pat’s passion and dedication to serving others and our mission here at the foundation.”
Damar collapsed on the field during a Jan. 2 game between the Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals after tackling Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins in the opening quarter. Higgins’ shoulder connected with Hamlin’s chest, and after Damar got up, he quickly fell back down. The first responders rushed to Damar’s side, and after a harrowing stay in the ICU, he fully recovered. In April, Damar was cleared to return to the game that he loved and he was back participating in workouts with the Bills.