Hamlin accepts NFLPA service award, vowing never to take role for granted
PHOENIX, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin accepted the NFLPA's Alan Page Community Service Award on Wednesday, appearing in Phoenix ahead of the Super Bowl a little over a month after suffering cardiac arrest on the field during a game.
The 24-year-old had to have his heartbeat restored on the field after making a tackle in the first quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals and left in an ambulance, horrifying fans.
The incident sent shockwaves through the league and prompted nearly 250,000 donations totaling more than $9 million as of Wednesday to a GoFundMe page he initially established to fund a community toy drive in December 2020.
"He is not only a person who reminds us just how dangerous this game is - but also the spirit, the love, the joy, the fraternity of people who play this game," said DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the National Football League Players Association.
Hamlin credited his father, who was in attendance for the award ceremony, with inspiring him to serve the community.
"First and foremost I just want to say thank you, just thank God for being here," said Hamlin, who shared one of his favorite quotes, "It's a blessing to be a blessing."
Hamlin overcame adversity to reach the NFL, losing three friends to gun violence growing up in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.
He elected to play college football near home at the University of Pittsburgh, saying at the time that he wanted to be available as a role model for his younger brother.
"I plan to never take this position for granted and always have an urgent approach in making a difference in the community where I come from and also communities across the world," Hamlin told reporters.
His appearance was a welcome surprise at the annual state-of-the-union media event for the NFL labor union, one month to the day after the Bills announced he had been released from a Buffalo hospital.
"We all wanted to see him," said Smith. "And for everything that he means to me and us, I think we'd move heaven and earth to get him here."
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