Damar Hamlin was living the dream.
Then, he wasn’t.
On “Monday Night Football” on ABC and ESPN, Hamlin made what looked like a routine tackle on receiver Tee Higgins, got up and almost immediately went down and didn’t get back up.
Some medical experts are calling it commotio cordis, which is when the heart is hit hard and goes into arrhythmia.
As everyone knows, Hamlin was given CPR on the field, left in an ambulance on oxygen and reportedly had to have CPR again at the hospital.
The nation watched social media blow up with prayers for the 24-year-old. As he lay on the field, teammates openly wept.
It isn’t everyday that a football player needs CPR during a game.
Everyone there and those watching on television knew it was serious.
It was a strong reminder of how precious life is. Several times in the Bible we are taught not to expect a tomorrow.
Hamlin made it through the first night, and Wednesday the Buffalo Bills put out a news release saying Hamlin had shown signs of improvement but is still in critical condition.
Hamlin won’t go quietly.
He was a sixth-round draft pick, the 212th selection of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The NFL’s report on him was good, but obviously not great, and they questioned his speed and how he reacted with his back to the ball.
Plus, he had missed parts of three seasons at Pittsburgh due to injury, and that always worries general managers.
He made every cut and played in 14 games as a rookie with two tackles.
This season, he had started 13 of 15 games and had 91 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and a forced fumble.
Everything was looking good for the Pittsburgh native. His mom had driven over for the important game with Cincinnati. She was quickly on the field and rode with him in the ambulance.
This may be the second worst on-field tragedy in NFL history.
In 1971, Chuck Hughes, a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, collapsed and died. It was reported he died from a heart attack caused by a blood clot.
That day they didn’t stop the game.
Monday night the NFL got it right and handled it professionally, as did ABC and ESPN who went to studio announcers but didn’t show replays of Hamlin falling.
It took a little more than an hour for the official postponement of the game, but it seemed apparent the players didn’t want to play, and they told their respective head coaches that.
America has responded to this tragedy, and so far the national media has been incredibly respectful of the situation.
Before Monday, Hamlin’s foundation, which raises money for toys, had a few hundred dollars. As of Wednesday it had more than $6 million.
We may not be a perfect country, but we are close, and Americans always seem to stand together in times of sorrow.
Eventually, the memory of Hamlin falling will fade a little.
It will take longer for his family, friends, teammates and coaches.
As of late Wednesday, no decision had been announced about what the NFL was going to do about the game that could have meant home-field advantage in the playoffs for the winner.
Most feel it will be canceled, and each team will have played one less game. It is just a game, not life or death.
The Bills are scheduled to host New England this Sunday in the regular-season finale. There is little doubt the game will be dedicated to Hamlin, but it is still going to be hard for those players to not think about him and what happened.
Judging by how hard he played and how much he loved the game, Hamlin would want them to not just play, but win.
Damar Hamlin is a competitor.