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Pitt’s Jeff Capel, Players Offer Prayers to Damar Hamlin After Emotional Win

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PITTSBURGH — Tuesday night’s victory over No. 11 Virginia was about more than just basketball for Pitt.

The Panthers, led by Pittsburgh native Nelly Cummings and third-year guard Nike Sibande, took down the Cavaliers in front of a loud, and at times very emotional crowd.

This game, which held tremendous weight on paper (against a ranked opponent, with Pitt looking to go 4-0 in conference play for the first time in nine years) was about more than just hoops.

Former Pitt Football captain and current Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin was on everyone’s minds. Everyone in the sports community, everyone in the football community, everyone in the Pittsburgh community, and everyone inside of the Petersen Events Center for the 9 p.m. matchup, was thinking about Hamlin.

Just one night prior, Hamlin had gone into cardiac arrest after tackling a Bengals receiver during the first quarter of the Bills-Bengals matchup. Both an AED and CPR were administered to Hamlin shortly thereafter on the field, before he was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he was listed to be in critical condition.

One night later, in Oakland — the neighborhood that Hamlin called home while playing for Central Catholic and Pitt — the Pittsburgh community gathered to watch the Panthers play with Hamlin on their minds.

“Obviously, everyone saw what happened last night with Damar Hamlin,” head coach Jeff Capel said after the game. “These guys know him, guys on our team, he’s part of our community, our athletic department, I got to know him. Unbelievable young man, great spirit, every time I saw him he was in a good mood. Unbelievable personality. So our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family, the Bills family, everyone in the NFL. We know he’s a fighter, and he will continue to fight. Everyone stay prayed up.”

Before the game, Pitt warmed up wearing “Chasing Millions” shirts, representing Hamlin’s brand which shares the same name as his charity — The Chasing M’s Foundation.

“A close friend brought them [the shirts] up here for us, and we just wanted to wear them because, to support Damar,” Pitt’s Sibande said. “We all know the situation that he’s going through, and we’ve all got our hands together for him. So, we definitely wanted to show our support, our love for him.”

“He’s a real genuine person,” Sibande continued. “He just wants to help everybody out. He’s really giving, and he just wants to see everybody win. Really unselfish guy, and he really cares about people. We care about him as well.”

Then, almost halfway through the first half, during the entirety of the under-12 media timeout, Pitt put a photo of Hamlin on the jumbotron, along with a note.

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

After the message was displayed, the video board began to scroll through different tweets and photos of Hamlin, including one tweet that showed that his GoFundMe campaign — one which Hamlin arranged before the holidays to raise money for a toy drive — had now received millions of dollars worth of donations since his injury Monday night.

The Pitt faithful in attendance erupted.

“Man, that’s my guy man,” Cummings said about Hamlin, a fellow Pittsburgh native. “I don’t want to add too much more, I just really want to just pray for him and hopefully nothing but the best for him and his family because he’s a very genuine person, and you hate to see something like that happen to a guy like him.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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