Damar Hamlin overcame a life-threatening medical event to return to the football field, but he was not the AP Comeback Player of the Year.
Hamlin, who starred at Pitt and currently plays for the Buffalo Bills, finished as the runner-up for the honor to Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco.
Flacco received 151 points to Hamlin’s 140, with his second-place votes (26-7) outweighing Hamlin’s first-place votes (21-13). Flacco, to his credit, advocated for Hamlin to win the award just a couple of weeks ago.
“I don’t know how many snaps he played, but I just think mentally, to get yourself back to the point where you feel comfortable doing that kind of thing and obviously the physical parts — you don’t need any explanation there. But I think mentally, to get yourself ready to go back out there and feel good doing what we do, especially at his position, is pretty cool,” Flacco told CBSSports’ Zach Gelb.
Hamlin was active for five regular season games this season, recording two tackles (two solo), and he’s played in both of the Bills’ playoff games — recording two tackles against the Kansas City Chiefs.
It’s a miracle he’s playing at all this season after he went into cardiac arrest during a Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals last January.
He finished the season with two tackles, and he added two more during the Bills playoff run, but his impact on the field was secondary to his ability to simply step onto the field and play in a football game this season. It was a triumphant return for Hamlin, and everyone involved in his recovery.
Hamlin recorded 91 tackles (63 solo), six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two pass breakups and a forced fumble in 15 games in 2022 — starting every game in the Bills’ secondary from Week 3 onward. And he filled in admirably in an injury-stricken Bills secondary.
Hamlin originally committed to Pitt as a four-star recruit out of Pittsburgh Central Catholic, choosing Pitt over an offer from just about every major college in the country, and he would grow into one of the top safeties in college football during his time in Pittsburgh.
In five seasons at Pitt, he recorded 275 tackles (185 solo), 10 tackles for loss, six interceptions, 21 pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
It wasn’t the most star-studded season for Hamlin, but it was a massive success just to return to the football field — even if he didn’t earn Comeback Player of the Year.