Orchard Park, N.Y. — Tre’Davious White awoke Sunday morning to a text message from Damar Hamlin.
The Buffalo Bills were hours from taking the field for the first time since Hamlin’s heart stopped in Cincinnati. All week, players and coaches were glued to their phones hoping for updates on their fallen friend, who needed life-saving CPR to make it to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Hamlin woke up two days after going into cardiac arrest. He was talking by Thursday, and back posting inspirational messages on social media by Friday.
What did Hamlin want to tell White at 2:31 a.m. before the Bills stepped back on the field for the first time since the traumatic events of Monday night?
Hamlin wanted to tell White he was sorry.
“What he said was, ‘I’m thinking about y’all, I’m sorry that I did that to y’all,’” White recalled. “For him to check on us when he’s the person that’s going through what he’s going through, man. That just shows what type of person he is … when he’s the one that’s going through it.”
The football world celebrated Hamlin on Sunday across the league. Players and coaches wore T-shirts with “Love for Damar” written around the no. 3, while signs filled stadiums to show support for the 24-year-old. From his hospital bed, Hamlin watched the Bills beat the New England Patriots 35-23, while the defense finished the game with a meaningful three interceptions. He even live-tweeted the game as his teammates made big play after big play.
White had the Bills’ first interception, his first since Nov. 14, 2021. Hamlin tweeted, “T WEEZY!!!! WELCOME BACK 27!!!”
White returned from a year-long absence on Thanksgiving after tearing his ACL in the same game the previous season. White said he was thrilled to make a big play for his team, but he’s more concerned about getting Hamlin back in the Bills’ facility.
“I just want to hug the s*** out of him,” White said. “Because in the meeting room, he sit like two seats away from me, and every time he come in the meeting room: ‘T. Weezy.’ I can’t wait to hear his voice and be able to touch him and just hug the s*** out of him and hear that again.”
White was emotional behind the microphone just minutes after finishing the game. Hamlin had just FaceTimed into the team’s postgame locker room huddle, where Sean McDermott asked him to “break the team down” after the win. He told his teammates he loved the team.
During the week, White tried to find distractions to take his mind away from the scenes that kept playing in his mind. He’d flip on the TV, but as soon as what he was watching went to commercial, he saw Hamlin on the ground fighting for his life on the Bengals field.
“It’s been a s*** show, man,” White said as he closed his eyes and rubbed his face with his hand. “To see it all, everything transpire from the hit. To him getting up, to him falling, to everything – it’s just something that I can’t unsee. Every time I close my eyes, it replays. … It’s been a tough week.”
McDermott said that for the players who were on the field and watched Hamlin struggle after the hit, the trauma added another dimension to a difficult week. White and his teammates have seen the way the world has responded to Hamlin’s story. The Bills coach said Hamlin’s apology wasn’t necessary.
“Damar should not in no way, shape, or form feel bad or apologize for him putting his teammates through this,” McDermott said. “I think we would all agree that God’s hand is in this and it has been in it from the first moment and I think, and I should say this, when you watch how at times divided we can be as a country and a world, I think the thing we all recognized this week was when people can put love first and people first and come together, how powerful this country and this world can be for the good.”
White echoed McDermott’s sentiments. He said this week wasn’t about the rest of the Bills team – it was about Damar.
“Just what they had to go through, his mom and his dad being right behind our bench,” White said. “And witnessing their son go through that man. It’s just, it’s tough. And hopefully, we’ll never have to go through this again.”