Ahead of what will be a miraculous return to the NFL, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has been selected as the 2023 George Halas Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA). Hamlin becomes the award’s 55th honoree, which is one of the two oldest PFWA awards presented annually.
Since collapsing on the field in front of millions tuned in to watch Monday Night Football, suffering what we know now was commotio cordis following a routine tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals, Hamlin has made an incredible recovery culminating on April 18 with his being cleared to resume football in full by multiple independent doctors and specialists. Hamlin has since announced his intention to return to the field of play with the Buffalo Bills.
Hamlin joins former Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett as the second member of the franchise to receive the honor. Everett was honored in 2008 following a career-ending cervical spine fracture that left him paralyzed from the neck down in September of 2007. Similar to Hamlin, Everett made a remarkable recovery that found him walking again mere months removed from the initial injury.
The bigger picture within the events that changed the lives of Damar Hamlin and Kevin Everett are those who took immediate action that directly played a role in the positive outcomes for both men. For Hamlin that was assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington and the team’s medical personnel, who all played critical roles by providing CPR and life-saving care to a motionless Hamlin for over 20 minutes. Kellington’s quick thinking gave Hamlin every opportunity possible to make a full recovery. Everett’s outcome was impacted directly by the efforts of orthopedic surgeon Andrew Cappuccino and a “dream team” of additional physicians, physical therapists and occupational therapists. An aggressive first response that took place just minutes after Everett’s injuries, utilizing a hypothermic treatment of intravenous ice-cold saline is widely credited with his profound recovery.
Additionally, both Hamlin and Everett’s injuries had devastating affects on those directly involved in the life-changing plays. For Hamlin, that was Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins and for Everett that was Denver Broncos kick returner Domenik Hixon. Higgins and Hixon faced immense guilt following plays neither man could have prevented. Hixon was able to eventually reconcile what happened with Everett and credits him with finding spiritual growth. Higgins and Hamlin have spent time together during this offseason, showcasing the bond between players that transcends all things in the NFL, rivalry or otherwise.
The Halas Award is given to an NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed. The award is named for Halas, a charter member (1963) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who was associated with the Chicago Bears and NFL from their inception in 1920 until his death in 1983 as an owner, manager, player and promoter. Halas won 324 games and six NFL titles in 40 seasons as a coach.
Like Kevin Everrett, Damar Hamlin beat the greatest of all odds when after a week at University of Cincinnati Medical Center where survival was anything but a guarantee, he was transferred to a Buffalo-area hospital to continue his recovery. Despite everything that’s happened to him since January 2, 2023, Hamlin remains a grounded and philanthropic young man who seeks to build a legacy of positively impacting generations to come.