Just made the final edits on this blog entry while the Buffalo Bills are hosting the Miami Dolphins in an NFL playoff game.  On January 2nd, the Bills’ 24-year old Defensive Back Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest, and for what seemed like an eternity laid lifeless on the field in Cincinnati during that Monday Night football game. 

The circumstances surrounding this extraordinary incident touched our Nation and all components of “T3”:

  • TEAMWORK: Football is a brutal team sport.  When we think of football teams, we call up thoughts of Offense, Defense, Special Teams and Coaching.  But Trainers and Medical Staff are critical elements of such organizations, and played the most crucial role that night.   Damar is alive today because he received immediate CPR from team trainers and Emergency Medical Technicians to restart his heart.  Ironically, those First Responders were least paid personnel on the field.
  • TONE:  Damar’s injury drove our nation to pray.  Paycor Stadium; where the incident took place, is public property owned by Hamilton County, OH.  Yet, no objections were publicly raised when prayers were offered up by players from both teams kneeling at midfield.  Any legal or cultural prohibitions attached to sporting event prayers were – at least for the moment – cancelled!  Commentators went beyond conventional references to “thoughts” and spoke repeatedly of “prayers.”  The NFL mantra for the next several days was “Pray for Damar.”  The next day on ESPN, former quarterback Dan Orlovsky, bowed his head and prayed aloud on a live network show.  What happened to Darmar Hamlin was also a chance for Americans to come together, to show their support – and demonstrate what was on their heavy hearts – by donating to his “Chasing M’s” Foundation which provides toys for underprivileged children. Almost overnight, donations poured in – raising over $8.5M!
  • TENACITY:  Damar is no stranger to adversity  Hamlin lost three of his closest friends to bullets as a teenager. During his childhood, his father spent 3½ years in prison.  But Damar rose above the hardships.  A sixth-round draft pick from the University of Pittsburgh, there was no guarantee he would make the 2021 Bills roster … but he did – even though he didn’t see much playing time.  “Me and my family, we saw it as the perfect opportunity to be able to come in and learn.  Some rookies, they have the pressure of having to get out there right away. And they might burn their wick short because they might not be ready for their moment.”  It was, ironically, an injury to another Bills player this season that provided an opportunity for Damar to start … and it was THE opportunity for which he was prepared and THE opportunity which brought him into our hearts. 

Damar is now home in Buffalo with family and recovering. When he asked Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, “Who won the game?” following his revival several days after a near death experience, they replied, “You won the game of life, Damar!”   And all Americans who were praying for Damar were winners too.  Together, on Monday Night Football, we witnessed a young man in peril and the frantic efforts to save his life. People in the stadium, people at home on their couches, people watching the news the next morning, people around the world … all came together, shared and benefited from something miraculous.  Not just the joyful news of a human heart revived, but the demonstration of our own capacity for heartfelt caring and prayer.  And that’s worth celebrating. 

P.S. The Bills just won their playoff game vs. the Dolphins. Final score 34-31! 

– Rear Admiral Paul Becker, USN (Ret) is a motivational and national security keynote speaker.  He is a leadership professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and the CEO of The Becker T3 Group. In 2016, The Naval Intelligence Community established “The Rear Admiral Becker ‘Teamwork, Tone, Tenacity’ Award for Leadership” in his honor.  To connect with Paul, visit his website: https://TheBeckerT3Group.com

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