Not all heroes wear helmets and jerseys.
The Buffalo Bills may have received a hero's welcome when they returned to the field Sunday for the first time since Damar Hamlin collapsed on Monday. But one of the loudest pregame ovations was for the heroes who helped save Hamlin's life: the Bills' medical and athletic training staff.
The staff was honored prior to the start of the Bills' matchup against the New England Patriots. They stood on the field in front of the 30-yard line, which had the number three outlined in blue honor of Hamlin and his No. 3 jersey. The names of each staff member were announced by the public address announcer, with many holding up three fingers in honor of Hamlin as they were called.
The staff included head athletic trainer Nate Breske, assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington, physical therapist Joe Micca, assistant athletic trainer Tabani Richards, medical director Dr. Leslie Bisson, team internist Dr. Tom White, team internist Dr. Mark Kim, team orthopedist Dr. Marc Fineberg, director of sports performance Joe Collins, team sports psychologist Dr. Desaree Festa, athletic training intern Marissa Figueroa, team chiropractor Dr. Zachary Musial, coordinator of player services Kelsey Harkins and equipment assistant Kori Reblin.
The staff has been praised for their immediate response and quick action in applying CPR after Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after a collision with Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins on Monday Night Football.
“It’s certainly not an exaggeration to say that the skilled and the immediate response by all of these talented caregivers prevented a very tragic outcome at that moment,” NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said Wednesday.
It was Kellington who administered CPR and chest compressions on Hamlin, who had no pulse on the field and had to be revived through resuscitation and defibrillation before being transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Bills coach Sean McDermott thanked the first responders and medical staffs and specifically praised Kellington while speaking with reporters Thursday.
“For an assistant to find himself at that position and needing to take the action that he did and step up and take charge like he did, and there were others on the field as well, is nothing short of amazing,” McDermott said.
“And the courage that took -- you talk about a real leader, a real hero in saving Damar’s life and just admire his strength.”
Hamlin remains in critical condition but has shown continued improvement. He watched the Bills-Patriots game Sunday from the hospital, and responded on social media after Buffalo's Nyheim Hines ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown to once again send the crowd at Highmark Stadium into a frenzy.