An emotional Damar Hamlin presented the Pat Tillman Award for Service at the 2023 ESPYS to the Buffalo Bills training staff who helped save his life during a game earlier this year.
The 25-year-old Bills safety wiped tears from his eyes as he took the stage Wednesday to introduce the training staff – months after he went into cardiac arrest on the field after making a tackle during the first quarter of the Bills’ January 2 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
On Wednesday, attendees at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles gave a rousing ovation as Hamlin shared an embrace with the training staff on stage.
Nathan Breske, the team’s head athletic trainer, said Wednesday that it was the “best outcome we could’ve prayed for or imagined” as he stood alongside Hamlin on stage to accept the award on behalf of the group.
Breske thanked the “massive army of specialists who came together on and off the field to do their jobs that night,” including the Bills and Bengals athletic training and medical staffs, equipment managers, player engagement personnel, mental health clinicians, chaplains, security, on-field first responders, paramedics and the entire medical staff at the University of Cincinnati medical center.
Breske also thanked Hamlin for “staying alive.”
“We are so honored to be standing next to such a strong, courageous human being,” Breske added.
Hamlin was fully cleared to resume football activities in April – marking a remarkable recovery following a stay at the hospital that involved being sedated and on a ventilator for days.
Breske acknowledged the Bills and Bengals owners, the leadership team, the coaches and the players for “helping navigate the challenges that we faced as a team that night and the days following the event.”
“We are not used to having the spotlight on us,” Breske said. “We were just doing our job but the idea of service is definitely something that is ingrained in our profession and that we take great pride in.”