‘The best of us’: Pitt community reacts to Damar Hamlin injury


TPN File Photo

Paris Ford (12) and Damar Hamlin (3) after Pitt’s loss to Penn State in September 2019.

By Brian Sherry, Assistant Sports Editor

Many in the Pitt community tuned into Monday night’s matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals, hoping to see multiple former Panthers shine under the bright lights of prime time football. From Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd, to Bills cornerback Dane Jackson, the prime-time matchup was set to feature several former Pitt players. 

But the dream scenario for Pitt fans quickly devolved into a nightmare. 

Midway through the first quarter, former Pitt and current Bills safety Damar Hamlin made a routine tackle at the 50-yard line. Hamlin stood up but quickly stumbled backward before collapsing to the ground. Medics rushed to his aid and performed CPR for several minutes. Hamlin was ultimately taken away in an ambulance and sent to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he remains in critical condition. 

Reactions from across the country quickly flooded social media. Pitt football was quick to voice their support for Hamlin. The official Pitt football Twitter account posted a prayer emoji just minutes following the incident. The account later posted a picture of Hamlin in a Pitt uniform with a short caption. 

“Damar Hamlin is the best of us,” Pitt football said in the post. “We love you, 3. Praying for you.”

Senior safety Damar Hamlin (03) tackles Syracuse running back Jarveon Howard (28) during the 2018 matchup with the Orange at Heinz Field. (TPN File Photo)

Hamlin is a McKees Rocks native and played for the Panthers from 2016-20. By his senior year, Hamlin was a captain and rated as one of the best safeties in the nation. The Bills ultimately selected the former Panther in the sixth round. Prior to Pitt, Hamlin attended Central Catholic High School in Oakland. 

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi also turned to Twitter to show his concern. Narduzzi coached Hamlin for his entire career at Pitt. The Pitt head coach later released an official statement on Tuesday, recognizing Hamlin’s character and off the field achievements.

“Damar Hamlin is far more than just a football player,” Narduzzi said in Tuesday’s statement. “He’s a loving son, brother, and friend. Damar is a hero to thousands of Pittsburgh kids.”

Narduzzi ended the statement by reaffirming his concern for his former player and recognizing the support Hamlin is receiving from across the country.

“Damar, we love you,” Narduzzi said. “We are praying for you. Pittsburgh’s always had your back. And now it’s obvious the entire country has your back, too.”

But perhaps the most emotional tribute to Hamlin came from former Panther quarterback Kenny Pickett. The current Steeler quarterback retweeted a video of Hamlin and himself from the Steelers-Bills game earlier this year. In the video, the pair are seen embracing and talking before going their separate ways.

Hamlin and Pickett played together at Pitt from 2017-20. Between those years, Hamlin and Pickett dominated their respective sides of the ball. The duo both posted clutch performances in Pitt’s 2019 Quick Lane Bowl victory over Eastern Michigan, but Pickett ultimately edged Hamlin for Bowl MVP. 

But the wave of concern from the Pitt community did not stop with the football program. The entire Pitt athletic community rallied behind the former Panther, with every program changing their Twitter header to a picture of Hamlin.

Senior safety Damar Hamlin (3) takes Boston College halfback off his feet during Pitt’s 26-19 loss to the Eagles in November 2019. (TPN File Photo)

The concern from Pitt even reached the upper levels of the University’s administration. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher tweeted, “Your Pitt family is praying for you and your family, Damar.” 

It is clear that Hamlin is a beloved member of the Pittsburgh community. Pittsburgh mayor Ed Gainey also released a statement via Twitter. Gainey brought attention to Hamlin’s love for Pittsburgh, while also showing his sympathy. 

CommUnity — please join me in praying for a quick recovery for Damar Hamlin and for strength for his family during this difficult time,” Gainey tweeted. “He loves his community and has a strong commitment to family — that commitment is what led him to being a stand out player at Pitt.”

But he is admired in Pittsburgh not only for what he did on the field, but also for what he did off of it. After being drafted by the Bills, Hamlin created the Chasing M Foundation to give back to his hometown of McKees Rocks. Since his injury, a Gofundme posted by the foundation has raised more than $5.6 million, as of Tuesday evening.