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The football world came to a screeching halt on Jan. 2, 2023. That’s the night that Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed on the field in Cincinnati in a game against the Bengals.
He lost consciousness and his heart stopped. But on-field medical personnel revived him and got him to the hospital.
And just five months later — earlier this month — Hamlin returned to Bills practice. His incredible recovery has been nothing short of miraculous and he’s the heavy odds-on favorite to win the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award.
With a lull in the NFL calendar as teams prepare for training camps next month, Hamlin headed back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The defensive back grew up in McKees Rocks, just outside of Pittsburgh.
He attended — and starred — at Central Catholic High School. Then, he went to Pitt for college. He’s a Pittsburgh guy, through and through.
Playing in Buffalo is fairly convenient, too, given that the cities are only about 200 miles apart.
So the Pirates invited him back to his hometown to throw out the first pitch Tuesday night. He traded jerseys with David Bednar, a Pirates pitcher who was also born and raised in Pittsburgh.
Then, Hamlin warmed up his arm prior to taking the mound for the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game between the Pirates and the San Diego Padres.
After that, it was time for the big moment. First pitches are often tougher than people realize. You only get one shot and it has to be good. Otherwise, you end up as an internet meme.
Another tight end, Zach Ertz, also threw out a first pitch this season. Like Kelce, he came up short. His looked even worse, though, because he wife got her throw over the plate at the exact same time.
Another NFL player who bounced a first pitch this season is new Chicago Bears wide receiver DJ Moore. Following a trade from the Carolina Panthers, the Cubs invited him out to the ol’ ballpark. And, yup, he bounced it like Ertz and Kelce.
So, did Damar Hamlin bounce his first pitch like the other guys?
Yup! But not quite as badly as some of the others.
Regardless, just seeing Hamlin on a professional sports field is incredible, given what happened less than six months ago.
But nothing could compare to Hamlin running out of the tunnel on Monday Night Football on Sept. 11 when the Buffalo Bills open the season at MetLife Stadium against Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets.
Will it happen? That remains to be seen.
But it’s certainly something every fan is hoping to see.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on X – formerly known as Twitter: @RealDanZak