Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin issued a video statement on Instagram, marking the first time most people have seen his face up close and heard his voice since he went into cardiac arrest on the field earlier this month.
On Saturday evening, Hamlin, 24, posted a six-minute video to his Instagram account. In the video, aptly titled “Thank You: A Message from Damar Hamlin,” Hamlin makes a series of statements, most of them expressions of gratitude to various people and groups who have helped him in his recovery.
Hamlin opens the video by walking into the camera’s view of what appears to be a Bills setup. He places a jacket on a chair and then speaks directly to the camera, though the film regularly shows footage and clips of other people, including medical personnel, other NFL players, fans and members of his family .
“It’s been a lot to process,” Hamlin admits, “but I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the love and all the support and everything that’s just happened to me.”
“What happened to me on Monday Night Football, I think, is a direct example of God using me as a vessel to share my passion and my love directly from my heart to the whole world,” Hamlin says. “And now I’m able to give back to children and communities around the world who need it most, and that’s always been my dream. It’s always been what I’ve stood for and what I’ll continue to stand for.”
On January 2, Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after being hit in the chest while tackling Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin required immediate medical attention and had to be resuscitated twice by emergency crews that night. The game never resumed.
Despite the seriousness of the immediate situation, Hamlin has made “remarkable” progress and was able to return to Buffalo about a week after the incident. The cause of its collapse has not yet been determined or disclosed.
In recent weeks, however, rumors have circulated on social media about whether Hamlin has improved as much as indicated. Hamlin’s face has often been obscured, even during so-called “public appearances”. Although he did attend the Bills’ playoff game on Jan. 22 against the Cincinnati Bengals, no less, the camera didn’t get a close-up of his face, even as he walked into Highmark Stadium , and the audience mainly saw his silhouette through the suite window during the game.
Even a picture posted on Hamlin’s Instagram account earlier this week showed Hamlin wearing sunglasses and a hoodie and looking down, leading some to speculate that he was protecting himself the face deliberately. Others even suggested that Hamlin may have used a body double, either to hide alleged setbacks in his recovery or to monetize his comeback by “selling” an interview to a big-name journalist like Oprah Winfrey.
BlazeTV’s Jason Whitlock seemed to speak for many skeptics this week when he asked, “Why the secrecy?”
Hamlin addressed those rumors indirectly, stating in the video that he had been waiting for “the right moment” to speak publicly.
“Now that my brothers have closed out a good season of wins while I’ve continued to make so much progress in my recovery, I think it’s finally a good time to share some things,” Hamlin says to open the video. “I think it was important for me to wait and speak publicly at the right time because it was a lot to process within my own self. Mentally, physically, even spiritually, it’s just been a lot to process.”
Hamlin spends most of the video thanking people, often by name, including the Bills’ training staff; medical teams at “Cincinnati Medical Center and Buffalo General Hospital”; his mother, father and younger brother; the Bills organization and the NFL as a whole; loyal Bills fans known as the “Bills Mafia”; Bengals fans; donors to his organization, the Chasing M’s Foundation; and all the “children they sent [him] heartwarming letters and gifts.”
“”It’s always been important to me to be a role model, but just seeing the love and support from young people, it just makes me want to go back and get out into the communities and touch kids and be the example that they can . See, touch, hear, speak and know that whatever they dream is real. It can happen, if you stay focused, you stay dedicated, you stay committed to whatever you’re going through,” says Hamlin.
“While I am very grateful to everyone, I know that being grateful is not enough,” Hamlin says to close his message. “This is just the beginning of the impact I wanted to have on the world. I couldn’t do it without this support and love, and I can’t wait to continue taking you on this journey with me.”
He then ends the video by making a heart shape with his hands, a signature move that seems to express love and make a subtle reference to his health and recovery.
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