Bills' Damar Hamlin expresses gratitude in first public comments

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Bills safety Damar Hamlin shared his first public comments since suffering cardiac arrest on Jan. 2 by posting a nearly six-minute video to his Instagram account on Saturday night thanking everyone for the continued support and well wishes over the past month.

Captioning the video "From The Heart," Hamlin, 24, said it was important for him to wait to speak publicly at the "right time," as it was "just a lot to process within my own self -- mentally, physically, even spiritually." The video was shot at the team's facility in Orchard Park, New York. He included in the video that he is continuing to make progress in his recovery.

"I can't tell you how appreciative I am of all the love, all the support and everything that's just been coming in my way," Hamlin said. "What happened to me on 'Monday Night Football' I feel is a direct example of God using me as a vessel to share my passion and my love directly from my heart with the entire world and I'm able to give it back to kids and communities all across the world who need it the most, and that's always been my dream. That's always been what I stood for and what I will continue to stand for."

The video comes almost a week after Hamlin made his first public appearance during the Bills' playoff loss to the visiting Cincinnati Bengals. He was shown on the video board holding up his hands in the shape of a heart, in what has become his signature gesture, while also pumping up the crowd.

As Hamlin has continued to recover, he has posted messages and photos on social media filled with updates and gratitude for well wishes.

Hamlin's Chasing M's Foundation raised over $9 million in the days after he went to the hospital, with the money going through GoFundMe for a toy drive that had an initial goal of $2,500. He said he was surprised by all the support.

"That was something that was started even way before I made it to the NFL, something that was started small just to be able to affect my small community back at home, McKees Rocks [Pennsylvania]," Hamlin said. "I just wanted to be able to play my role and do my part in my community as I ventured off and to chase my dreams of making the NFL, and you guys have just took that and blown it away, and I'm so excited for the things that I have planned in the future for these kids all across the country now."

Hamlin thanked the Bills' training, athletic and medical staffs, first responders and medical personnel and health care providers at hospitals in Cincinnati and Buffalo who all played a role in saving his life, pointing out many by name.

Hamlin stayed at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for almost a week after suffering cardiac arrest during the first quarter of the Bills' Week 17 regular-season game versus the Bengals in Cincinnati. He then flew to New York and spent about two days at Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute, before being discharged Jan. 11.

He went on to thank his parents, Mario and Nina, "who are literally my anchors and my everything who never left my side the entire time," and his 7-year-old brother, Damir, "who is my why, my reason why I strive to be my best self every day."

In the video, Hamlin also thanked family, friends, teammates and the entire Bills organization for continuing to check in on him and offer him support. He also acknowledged the Bengals and the NFL as a whole for "putting team allegiance aside to root for one kid's life," with teams and the league showing their support for Hamlin in a variety of ways, from donations to prayers to T-shirts before Week 18 games.

"I'm not surprised by it," Hamlin said, "but I'm deeply grateful, and I'll be forever thankful and indebted to that."

Hamlin also thanked fans, especially the Bills Mafia, for the love and support, and he noted that all the kids who sent him letters and gifts have inspired him.

"It's always been important for me to be a role model, but just seeing the love and the support from the youth," Hamlin said, "it just makes me want to give back and get out in the communities and touch the kids and just be that example that they can look to, touch, feel, talk to and know that whatever they dream of, it's real. It can happen if you stay focused, stay dedicated, stay committed to whatever you got going on, you know, because that's pretty much what got me here."

Hamlin ended the video with his hands forming a heart.

"I will continue to do wonderful and great things," Hamlin said. "I couldn't do this without any of the support and the love, and I can't wait to continue to take y'all on this journey with me."