Damar Hamlin facts: 8 things you never knew about the Pennsylvania native

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The Pittsburgh native and Buffalo Bills football safety is using his unexpected notoriety for good.

Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin became a household name in January 2023, when roughly 24 million people watched him go into cardiac arrest in the middle of a football game, his fate uncertain as he was taken off the field in an ambulance. But the Pittsburgh native wants to be known for more than a freak medical accident. Here are some interesting Damar Hamlin facts. 

1. The Chasing M’s Foundation, Hamlin’s charity, supports kids and advocates for heart health.

You may know that an old GoFundMe that Hamlin started in 2020 to raise money for Christmas presents for kids from McKees Rocks (his hometown just outside of Pittsburgh) began circulating after his incident. Well-wishers poured more than $9 million into the fundraiser, shattering its initial goal of $2,500. What you may not know is what Hamlin’s charity, the Chasing M’s Foundation, ultimately did with the money. While generous, millions of dollars in unexpected donations can sometimes be difficult for small organizations to handle — for instance, all of it could not be used for a toy drive. 

The Chasing M’s Foundation has now widened its scope. Now, the foundation supports CPR training and heart health education, expanding access to defibrillators at schools, as well as toy drives and football camps for kids. The charity also hosts a scholarship program, the Cincinnati Heroes Scholarship, named in honor of the medical team that saved Hamlin’s life.

2. Hamlin chose to play for the University of Pittsburgh partly because he wanted his family to be able to watch him play.

Coming out of high school, Hamlin was ranked the best defensive football player in Pa., and he received offers from several schools, including Pitt, Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Stanford, Auburn, and UCLA. 

Hamlin cites his family as a major influence in his life, especially his little brother, who is 17 years younger than him. So the football safety went to play with the Pitt Panthers, not even 20 minutes from Hamlin’s family in McKees Rocks.

3. At Pitt, Hamlin studied communications and sociology.

He ultimately earned a bachelor’s degree in communications, which has likely helped him relay the message of heart health to audiences on his “CPR tours,” which have taught CPR skills at events in a handful of cities.

4. He started a fashion line in college.

The line, Chasing Millions, was Hamlin’s backup plan after a number of football injuries playing for Pitt. T-shirts, hoodies, and hats are emblazoned with graffiti-esque designs and phrases like “Love me before they all do” and “You passed me up now I’m a superstar.”

5. He read a lot of books during his recovery that helped him define his values.

A few notable titles on Hamlin’s reading list include: “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho, “Fear is a Choice” by James Conner, “The Mamba Mentality” by Kobe Bryant, and “Move Devotional: A Guide for Men to Get Up and Go Forward,” by Brian Tome.

6. Movies and music also helped him through his time in the hospital and convalescing at home.

Hamlin cites “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” starring 50 Cent, as one of his favorite movies, and a song from the movie, “Hustler’s Ambition,” as key to aiding his recovery. Hamlin also included artists like Lil Durk, Kodak Black, NoCap, and Future in an Apple Music playlist of music he turned to as he recovered.

7. He could see himself playing for the Steelers.

In comments at a February Topps trading card event in Pittsburgh, Hamlin said that ending his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers “would be a dream.” He later clarified his comments for Bills fans, saying he answered the question “from a childhood perspective” as a kid from Pittsburgh. 

8. Hamlin has President Biden’s phone number.

Hamlin told GQ that the “craziest” number in his phone was that of the U.S. president. But he doesn’t take up too much of Biden’s time; “He’s busy saving the world,” Hamlin said.

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