Damar Hamlin heads into the 2024 NFL Honors on Thursday night in Las Vegas as the front-runner to win Comeback Player of the Year.
The Buffalo Bills safety suffered cardiac arrest and nearly died on the field during a game against the Bengals at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati on Jan. 2, 2023. But a month later, Hamlin surprised everyone at the 2023 NFL Honors when he walked onstage to receive the Alan Page Community Award.
Even more inspiring was Hamlin making the 53-man roster this past season – just months after possibly needing to walk away from the game.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE SPORTS COVERAGE ON FOXNEWS.COM
Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills looks on before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium on Nov. 5, 2023, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
So, if he is awarded the Comeback Player of the Year, he knows it’s a culmination of his hard work and determination.
“It will be an honor,” Hamlin told Fox News Digital on Thursday while discussing his partnership with Bounty and their “Ultimate Wingman” promotion alongside Bills teammate Dane Jackson. “To be among all those great players who won that award, all the great players who won any award up there, it will be super special, super honorable.”
Hamlin’s health situation garnered national attention as the entire country rallied around him, hoping his recovery would lead him back to the field.
BILLS’ DAMAR HAMLIN DISCUSSES BEING NAMED FINALIST FOR COMEBACK POY, NFL RETURN: ‘IT’S STILL A PROCESS’
But it was never something Hamlin wanted to do to win awards or gain popularity.
“I never did it for the accolade,” he explained. “I didn’t come back to win an accolade. I came back for the love to the game and prove something to myself. I set a goal and wanted to accomplish it.”
This mindset is one Jackson saw at the University of Pittsburgh, where he and Hamlin played college football. Jackson, a year older than Hamlin, said their “bond really took off” when they played for the Panthers.
Jackson was an advocate for Hamlin when it was time for the Bills to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, and since he was drafted in the sixth round, he’s been by his side ever since.
Dane Jackson (30) of the Buffalo Bills celebrates his touchdown with Damar Hamlin during the first half against the Indianapolis Colts during a preseason game on Aug. 12, 2023, at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (Timothy T. Ludwig/Getty Images)
“First of all, I had no doubt he was going to make the best recovery,” Jackson told Fox News Digital with Hamlin by his side in matching green Bounty varsity jackets. “He was going to battle any battle that got thrown his way. He was going to make the most of every opportunity. His work ethic has always been unmatched – always been a student of the game and true to the game. When you put those things into the game, you get that much back.”
“Like I’ve said before, there’s no offense to the other candidates. I’m pretty sure they’re deserving in their own ways. Me seeing the inside, me seeing what he’s been through and what he’s capable of doing, I think there’s no better person to win. I got his back, and I’m rooting for him.”
BILLS’ DAMAR HAMLIN DISCUSSES CAUSE OF CARDIAC ARREST DURING BENGALS GAME: ‘I DIED ON NATIONAL TV’
Hamlin played in five regular-season games this season, and he suited up for the AFC Divisional Round matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs in which he took a fake punt attempt but couldn’t convert.
He was used by the Bills sparingly last season for good reason, but 2024 marks the final year of Hamlin’s rookie contract. So, when bringing up his goals for next season, he knows what’s at stake.
“Yeah, man, I got big goals,” Hamlin said when “contract year” was brought up. “You said it right. You know what year it is. So, my mind is there.”
He wouldn’t exactly divulge what those goals were because, in his words, “They say when you spill your dreams out before they happen, they don’t come true.”
Damar Hamlin arrives at the Super Bowl Soulful Celebration 25th Anniversary at Pearl Theater at the Palms Casino Resort on Feb. 7, 2024, in Las Vegas. (Mindy Small/Getty Images)
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
“It’s all God’s plan and God works in mysterious ways,” he said.
Scott Thompson is a sports writer for Fox News Digital.