American footballer Damar Hamlin says faith is stronger than fear, as he prepares to compete in his first official match since suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch seven months ago.
The 25 year old collapsed on the field on the 2nd January 2023, during the Bills' Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and had to be resuscitated by the team's training staff.
He says during his recovery he's leaned on his faith in God, along with the support from his family and teammates.
"This is just a another milestone on the journey - might be one of the biggest ones," Hamlin said after one practice, as he prepared to make his comeback to the game. He took the decision to try and play again in April, and has been taking part in team drills and practice sessions since then.
"I made the choice to play. But I'm processing a thousand emotions. I'm not afraid to say that it crosses my mind of being a little scared here and there," he added. "My faith is stronger than any fear. That's what I want to preach up here. And that's the message I want to spread on to the world that as long as your faith is stronger than your fear, you can get through anything."
His determination and resilience has won the admiration of the whole team, who have been watched his progress carefully, while trying to treat him as normally as possible during sessions.
"How far he's come and what he's able to come back from late last season and just seeing how he goes about himself and attacks the rehab at the facility is nothing short of inspiring," said fellow Bills player Taylor Michael Rapp.
Coach Sean McDermott said they were treating Hamlin much like any other player while keeping in mind what he's gone through. "I think awareness is important, right? You've got X amount of guys out here and then you have Damar in there as well and trying to make it as normal as possible," McDermott said. "We're going to support him through this, and to this point he's done a phenomenal job."
Hamlin says he sees it as a challenge, as well as an opportunity: "Not too many people get this level of overcoming something and being able to stand for so many good things. ... It's a blessed space, and it´s a bunch of opportunity in there as well, if you choose to look at it that way."
He's scheduled to play in a preseason opener on Saturday, against the Indianapolis Colts, who are rooting for him too. Receiver Isaiah McKenzie, who spent four years in Buffalo and now plays for the Colts, has reportedly arranged to exchange jerseys with Hamlin following the game.