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Pitt in the Pros

Former Pitt S Damar Hamlin Impressing at Buffalo Bills OTAs



Pitt defensive back Damar Hamlin.

Damar Hamlin didn’t play much last season as he battled back from a cardiac arrest suffered on the field at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio in January 2023, but he’s working to get back to where he wants to be.

Hamlin — a 6-foot, 200-pound safety from McKees Rocks, Pa. — is entering the final season of his rookie contract with the Buffalo Bills, set to earn just over $1 million this season, and he’s been impressive through the early days of the Buffalo Bills’ OTAs.

“On Tuesday, Hamlin sat in coverage, reading the eyes of Josh Allen as he was flushed from the pocket, got two hands on a pass and tipped the ball into the air before Deion Jones ran under the ball and hauled it in for the INT,” Alex Brasky of BillsDigest wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Hamlin is a reserve safety for the Bills. He was active for five regular season games last season, recording two tackles (all solo) and played in both of the Bills’ playoff games — recording two tackles against the Kansas City Chiefs. He finished second, receiving more first-place votes than the eventual winner Joe Flacco, in the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.

It’s a miracle he played at all last season after he went into cardiac arrest, with the Bills training staff saving his life on the field at Paycor Stadium.

He finished last season with two tackles, adding 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. It was a triumphant return for Hamlin and all of those who were involved in his recovery.

But of course, Hamlin wants to be more than just a good story — he wants to get back to making an impact on the football field.

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 remains to be seen whether or not Damar Hamlin will make a legitimate impact in the Bills secondary next season. Considering the losses to free agency, there appears to be a path to playing time. Hamlin showed up when called upon in 2022 and will look to do the same in 2024.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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