Damar Hamlin, an NFL player who collapsed from cardiac arrest during a game last month, has made an unexpected appearance during Super Bowl week.
The Buffalo Bills safety made an appearance during the round of press conferences leading up to Super Bowl 57, which takes place this Sunday in Phoenix, Arizona.
Hamlin, 24, was one of five finalists for the Alan Page Community Award presented by the NFL Players Association (NFLPA).
And when he took the stage to accept the award, he stunned the journalists.
His arrival was met with solemn applause, and he spoke briefly to reporters before accepting the trophy and a $100,000 (£83,000) donation.
“It’s a blessing to be a blessing,” Hamlin said at the Phoenix event.
In 2020, the player established the Chasing M’s Foundation to provide toys for children in need in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.
Since Hamlin’s death in Cincinnati, Ohio, the toy drive has received nearly $9 million in donations, far exceeding its initial fundraising goal of $25,000.
On January 2, Hamlin was resuscitated on the field and released from the hospital after nine days.
He paid a visit to the team facility the week before the Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL playoffs on 22 January, and he made his first public appearance since his collapse.
From inside a stadium suite, Hamlin waved to fans and posted video updates on social media. However, he made his first media appearance since the medical emergency on Wednesday.
“Giving back to my community has always been an important part of who I am,” he said on stage, accompanied by his parents. “I’m grateful to my father, who is standing right behind me.
“Growing up and seeing him do community days in our neighborhood, I was always waiting for my turn.