In his second year of pro football, Damar Hamlin had just come into his own with the Super Bowl-contending Buffalo Bills before he was rushed to a Cincinnati hospital.
Hamlin, 24, a University of Pittsburgh alum and a starting safety for Buffalo, collapsed after a first-quarter play at Cincinnati's Paycor Stadium on Monday night, bringing a rare halt to an NFL game.
The Bills said in a statement early Tuesday that Hamlin “suffered a cardiac arrest following a hit” and “his heartbeat was restored on the field.” Hamlin was sedated and in critical condition at a hospital.
Hamlin played sparingly last year as a rookie, recording two tackles in 14 games.
But this season, he had taken a much more significant role on his first-place team, playing in all 15 games before Monday and making 91 tackles, 63 of them solo.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Buffalo native, tweeted: "Praying for Damar Hamlin. Our hearts are with his family, loved ones, and the entire @BuffaloBills."
Hamlin grew up in the western Pennsylvania football hotbed of McKees Rocks before we went on to Pitt.
He was a second-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference honoree in 2020, just a few months before the Bills called his name at the NFL Draft. His 67 tackles and 7 pass breakups were team highs for the Pitt Panthers in 2020.
Incoming Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said in a statement: "Praying for Damar Hamlin and his family."
Pitt’s football program changed its Twitter profile’s header late Monday night to a picture of Hamlin in his No. 3 Panthers jersey, and added: “Damar Hamlin is the best of us. We love you, 3. Praying for you.”
As Hamlin’s college football career came to an end in late 2020, he organized a charitable foundation and toy drive — with hopes of raising $2,500. By 4:30 a.m. ET, that total had topped $3 million.
The football community rallied around Hamlin and called on fans to ask for divine intervention on behalf of the Bills safety.