Damar Hamlin has distinguished self as mature, generous member of Bills’ team

Damar Hamlin has distinguished himself with the Buffalo Bills as a mature, outgoing, well-liked member of the organization.

It is a reputation he built at the University of Pittsburgh, as a leader on his college team and a socially conscious member of the community.

On Monday night, Hamlin collapsed on the field following a tackle in the Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was in critical condition, leaving teammates in tears and fans stunned at Paycor Stadium and in family rooms in Buffalo and across the nation.

Hamlin created the Chasing M’s Foundation at Pittsburgh, a charity designed by him to use his platform “to positively impact the community that raised me,” he said at the time.

Chasing M’s first was a clothing brand Hamlin created, in reference to a slogan he embraced – chasing millions. It is an ongoing online business. Hamlin’s first charitable effort was a community toy drive in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pa., a borough just outside of Pittsburgh, in 2020.

“Once I got to college and got more business-minded and business savvy, I wanted to develop it,” Hamlin said as a Bills rookie in 2021.

Hamlin said his brand is “for those who have a dream and pursue it. It is for those who want something more and can’t settle to be average.”

Hamlin has donated clothes from his brand to his high school in Pittsburgh, Sto-Rox in McKees Rocks.

Hamlin was selected in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

His transition to Buffalo was made easier by the fact he rejoined his longtime friend and Pitt teammate, Bills cornerback Dane Jackson, who was drafted in the seventh round in 2020.

Jackson grew up in Pittsburgh’s West End neighborhood, just a few miles from McKees Rocks.

“We used to scrimmage each other in little league,” Jackson told The News this year. “Our relationship kind of built from that.”

They played against each other at 8 and 9 years old in youth football. They also scrimmaged against each other while at different high schools. Jackson played for Quaker Valley High School. They trained together with a goal of fulfilling college and, ultimately, NFL dreams.

<p>Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) runs off the field after an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, in Chicago. </p>

AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin (3) runs off the field after an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, in Chicago. 

“It’s really like a situation I couldn’t even imagine in my wildest dreams,” Hamlin told reporters after the first practice of Bills minicamp in 2021. “Dane’s really like a brother to me. We’ve pretty much been close our whole life.”

Jackson and Hamlin lived in the same dorm, Bouquet Gardens, in back-to-back years.

Hamlin spent five years at Pitt and started for 3 1/2 seasons. He was a second-team all-Atlantic Coast Conference selection as a senior in the 2020 season. He started all 10 games and led Pitt in tackles.

For his career, he recorded 290 tackles, six interceptions and 21 passes defensed over 46 games. He earned a degree in communication.

“That’s kind of how those two have grown up in this mentality of this city,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi told The News this fall. “I haven’t spent a lot of time in Buffalo, but I would imagine another tough city up there. Pittsburgh is a tough city, tough people, and it takes tough people to come out of this place and be successful. Those two, they’ve won the toughness award.”

Hamlin appeared in 14 games as a rookie last season, but saw only limited duty as a reserve on defense because the Bills’ starting safeties stayed healthy the entire year.

Hamlin was thrust into action as a starter this season after Micah Hyde went down with a neck injury late in the Week 2 game against Tennessee.

Starting in the Bills’ Week 5 game against his hometown NFL team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, was a big moment for Hamlin.

“It does feel like … it’s bigger than the childhood dream,” Hamlin said. “Coming from where I come from, you always had hope of making it and doing things like this, being able to be a starter and playing on a team (that’s) playing your hometown team.

“But you never – if you haven’t seen it done, or if it’s not reality around you, it’s hard to dream it, envision it,” Hamlin said. “So, I can’t even say it was necessarily like a dream. I always had big goals, big plans for myself. But this is kind of a big moment in life for me, honestly. I can’t lie.”

Hamlin started 14 straight games, including the game in Cincinnati. He had played 86% of the defensive snaps entering Monday night’s game. He stands third on the team in tackles with 60.

Hamlin has a little brother, Damir, who is age 7. He plays football too, coached by their father, Mario, in little league.