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Mike Tomlin: I’ve known Damar Hamlin since he was 12, this is a personal thing to me

Mike Florio and Chris Simms discuss the effect of Damar Hamlin's injury on the Bills and Bengals players and explain how the game needed to be paused because of the "humanity of the moment."

Like everyone in the NFL, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is concerned first and foremost today with the health of Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who remains hospitalized in critical condition after collapsing on the field Monday night. But Tomlin revealed that he has a personal connection with Hamlin that began long before Hamlin’s NFL career.

Tomlin has known Hamlin since he was a youth football player in the Pittsburgh area, and he said the two of them have spent time reflecting on how far Hamlin has come.

“I’ll say this about Damar Hamlin: It’s a really personal thing to me, being a Pittsburgher and that young man being a Pittsburgher, I’ve known that guy probably since he was about 12,” Tomlin said. “I’ve just got a lot of respect and love for him as a human being, his commitment to the pursuit of his goals and dreams of doing what he is right now, which is playing in the NFL. To watch him make personal decisions, and make that a realization, it’s just an honor to get to know young people like that.

“I’ve had an opportunity to express that to him whenever I see him. We’ve played Buffalo each of the last two seasons and he and I had a moment because it’s just cool to not only appreciate these guys in terms of where they are now but to know them since they were younger people and to watch their maturation, their development, to watch them earn what they’ve been chasing, it’s really a cool thing, and he’s an example of that. I’ve got a lot of love for that young man. I’ve lifted him and that organization up in prayer. I’ve reached out to Sean McDermott to lend whatever assistance I could. But I don’t have a lot to add other than that. I just respect the fact that you guys appreciate how personal it is for me, not only for me, but for all of us.”

The 24-year-old Hamlin was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area and played his college football at Pitt before he was drafted by the Bills in 2021.