Damar Hamlin

Family, Football & No Guarantee

“Family, Football & This Adventure We Call Life” is a year-round column by Nate Polvogt that shares a Colorado dad’s outlook on life and his weekly advice for fantasy football waiver wire and trade acquisitions. In the wake of the Week 17 “Monday Night Football” game, Nate Polvogt will focus on Buffalo Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin and the aftermath of his horrific medical situation. Out of respect for Hamlin, there will be no fantasy football advice this week.


“Cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey.” ― Jack Layton

Sometimes, we receive a brutal reminder that life trumps sports. Last night was one of those moments. In the first quarter of the Bills-Bengals “Monday Night Football” game, Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on the field after a seemingly routine hit from Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins

The hit caused what is known as Commodio Cortis, an extremely rare occurrence. It requires impact on the chest wall at an exact location at a precise point in the heart’s rhythm. It occurs in much younger people, most notably in Little League Baseball, when a batter is struck by a pitch in the chest. This was a freak accident.

The aftermath of that split-second, improbable combination of events has been somber. He was immediately administered CPR, and medical staff used a defibrillator to get his heart beating again before he was rushed to the hospital. Hamlin is currently in intensive care, on a respirator and in a medically-induced coma. 

Despite the fancy dining room sign saying I could be, I’m not a doctor. So I have no idea how this will end for Hamlin. Though medical attention was received swiftly, increasing the likelihood that this young man will recover fully.

Who is Damar Hamlin?

It hasn’t been an easy task to focus on working today. My life is mainly comprised of family and football, thus the title of my column. However, writing about fantasy football feels trivial as Hamlin’s life hangs in the balance. 

Damar Hamlin has 91 total tackles this season.

I have spent most of my morning reading about him and who he is as a person, not just an athlete. I’ve found he is a kind, compassionate man who cares deeply about his family and community. He grew up in McKees Rock, Pa., a borough of Pittsburgh, and has stayed close to home his whole life. Despite offers from more prominent programs, he chose to play college football at the University of Pittsburgh to remain close to his mom, dad and little brother.

I’ve also found a sports community rushing to support Hamlin and his family in any way they can. The outpouring of support on social media has been incredible, with players and personalities from around the sports world and beyond sharing words of love and encouragement for this young man and those closest to him.

In addition, a 2020 GoFundMe page, set up by Hamlin before entering the NFL to raise $2,500 to buy toys for underprivileged youth in his community, started trending last night. As of today (Jan. 3) at 3:30 p.m., it is at $4.6 million. You can find his page here if you want to join in supporting this amazing cause. 

The Aftermath

Moments in life like this one are inevitable. We are fragile beings. While we protect ourselves the best we can, much of our existence is beyond our control. So when Hamlin went down on the field, I feared the worst.

It threw me back to Hank Gathers, a stand-out forward for Loyola Marymount University, who died suddenly on the court during a game in 1990. I will never forget how sad and confused I felt when my dad told me Gathers had died. It didn’t make sense that an athlete in peak physical condition could drop dead on the court. 

Today, I feel that same sadness and confusion. Admittedly, I don’t know Hamlin or his family. But I deeply respect what these men put on the line daily for our entertainment. They have lives outside of athletics, like we all have lives outside fantasy football and our day jobs. They live, laugh and love just like the rest of us. All I hope is that Hamlin makes a full recovery and he gets to live a long, full life, whether that includes football or not.

The world is hectic. We are all guilty of getting caught up in the hustle and neglecting ourselves and the people around us. So let this be a reminder that no matter how healthy, cautious or aware we are, tomorrow is never guaranteed.


My thoughts remain with Damar Hamlin and his loved ones during this difficult time.

As always, thanks for reading. For more fantasy and life content, find me on Twitter @NatePolvogt.