ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — As Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin sent his love from Cincinnati with his signature heart symbol, the team and fanbase honored him in a variety of ways before the team’s game against the New England Patriots.
And the Bills promptly scored on the very first play with running back Nyheim Hines scoring on a 96-yard kickoff return to start the game and give the Bills an early 7-0 lead.
The team honored the first-responders, doctors and athletic trainers that saved Hamlin’s life before the game by naming all of the team’s medical personnel and training staff to a large round of applause and cheers.
Some of the Bills players ran onto the field before the game with “3” and “Love for Damar” flags. They then gathered in a circle at the center of the field.
— 𝐃𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐫 𝐇𝐚𝐦𝐥𝐢𝐧 (@HamlinIsland) January 8, 2023
Hamlin also tweeted out a video of him being announced on the field prior to a game and including a message, writing, “GameDay.. Nothing I Want More Than To Be Running Out That Tunnel With My Brothers. God Using Me In A Different Way Today. Tell Someone You Love Them Today! Let’s go.”
Bills players are wearing “3” patches on their jerseys in honor of Hamlin.
General manager Brandon Beane wore a Hamlin jersey during pregame warmups. While Bills players had the option of wearing the same version of “Love for Damar 3” shirts that the entire league is wearing before games, but in blue, many wore custom black T-shirts that were made for the team with a Hamlin collage on the front and a larger image of Hamlin on the back.
Team personnel wore blue ballcaps and beanies with the No. 3 on it. The No. 3 was seen all over Highmark Stadium and in Orchard Park. Signs throughout the stadium included messages to Hamlin and people sharing their love for the safety.
Some fans were able to get Hamlin jerseys to wear to the game, but other made their own Hamlin gear with messages and heart pins with No. 3s on them.
Bills fans Ryan Magnuson and Jeffrey Payne had a 10-foot sign made for fans to sign sending their best to Hamlin outside the stadium in one of the parking lots. They said that despite wanting the Bills to win the game, what was most important was being there to honor Hamlin.
There were other signs of Hamlin throughout the stadium. The ambulance that sits in the stadium in case of emergencies placed Hamlin jerseys in their windows. The “3” on the 30-yard line was lined in blue.
Former Bills running back Le’Sean McCoy led the stadium in the signature Bills’ chant to start the game, “Ay-Ay-Ay-Ay,” and asked them to all hold up the number three. McCoy is a former Pittsburgh football player, just like Hamlin.