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'It was super fun' | Damar Hamlin describes emotional first game back


Damar Hamlin reached another milestone on Saturday afternoon in front of more than 70,000 fans. It was the safety's first game back on the field since his cardiac arrest on Jan. 2

Hamlin's first live rep against the Colts came on kickoff coverage and then he checked in at safety for the following series. 

"It was super fun," Hamlin said of his first game back. "It was a great experience. Just another milestone and a step up just getting back to myself as far as in the football space and in the NFL."

The safety didn't just play a couple of snaps to check a box. Rather, Hamlin made his presence known the moment he stepped onto the field. The first call he received – blitz.

"Just my first few plays in being pressures, and there's my number being called," Hamlin said. "So, all of the jitters, all the nerves, that was like out the window right there, like right then and there. But it was good for me. It was able to get me going."

Hamlin finished the day with three total tackles. His best play came on a 4th & 1 stop with less than eight minutes to go in the first quarter.

"What we just witnessed, to me, is remarkable," head coach Sean McDermott said after the game. "It really is. It's a true sign of a young man's courage and obviously everyone who helped him get to this point. I know there was a football game going on out there today, but I mean truly remarkable display of courage and strength and faith. 

"I had a chance to communicate with Damar a little bit last night and he assured me he was ready to go. So, he trusts his preparation and God. I think that shows a lot about who he is."

McDermott checked in with Hamlin ahead of his first game back to share that they were in full support of however Hamlin wanted to approach the day. His decision never wavered as he lined up for his first snap on defense without any hesitation.

"I made the choice that I wanted to play, it wasn't nobody else's choice but mine," Hamlin shared. "So making that choice, I know what comes with it. So, you see my cleats laced up and my helmet and shoulder pads on, there ain't gonna be no hesitation because you can't play this game like that. You'll put yourself at more risk by hesitating. I'm out there and I'm just not thinking twice, I'm just playing my game."

Hamlin admitted there were some nerves before his first taste of contact, but that's something he always hopes to experience before every game.

"It's good to be nervous, that means you care," Hamlin said. "That means you're ready. So, I still carry that with me. So, when I'm feeling those nerves and I'm feeling those emotions, it means I really love this. 

"I want to be here. I wanna play, I want to do good. I want to be one of the greats. I wanna be remembered as somebody who stood for something and who made a difference when I was out there on the field."

Along with some nerves, Hamlin shared he was "feeling everything all at once." One of those feelings was a sense of being in the right place.

"I honestly couldn't imagine not being a part of this," Hamlin said. "And choosing the other choice that I had, I honestly couldn't imagine it because you get so close. You build so many relationships with these people on the team. I love this atmosphere. And this honestly like, there's no other place I'd rather be."

It wasn't just a milestone game for Hamlin, it was also a milestone for his family. They were seated right behind Buffalo's bench so they could have the best view of their son's first snap of live action since January.

Hamlin wanted to express how thankful he is of their support throughout this entire process, so he gifted his mother with his jersey after the game.

"My mom was my strength, my everything through my entire life," Hamlin said. "My situation in January, that was just another bump in the road. But we be having a bump in the road since I was a kid. My mom was my backbone my entire life."

Hamlin's mom and family will continue to be his backbone as he embarks on a purpose that's bigger than football.

"This journey that I'm on, it's a blessing," Hamlin said. "I keep talking about the challenge, but how many people can say that they really get to overcome something, a hurdle this big in their life and then still be here to tell the story of it. So, I look at it like that. I feel chosen as far as that aspect. 

"And as far as also just continuing God's mission for me, just continuing the mission as far as raising awareness for CPR and raising awareness for AEDs being in places that they need to be in place so situations like mine can happen instead of it going the reverse way. So, continuing that mission and just spreading love and just keeping a smile on my face."

As for Hamlin's next milestone, it's simple.

"Practice tomorrow."

Check out the best photos from the preseason opener at Highmark Stadium. This gallery is presented by Gabe's Collision.

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