The Pittsburgh Steelers share a facility with the University of Pittsburgh. Anyone who follows both college football and the NFL knows this. This would mean there is a natural connection between the university and the professional organization. Players and coaches see each other regularly, and has been a cited reason why the Steelers felt so comfortable with selecting Kenny Pickett 20th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.
However, Mike Tomlin has been in Pittsburgh since 2007, and during that time has done more than just shared a facility with the players who call Pitt their home after high school. During his years in Pittsburgh, Tomlin has gotten to know several players in a very real, and personal, level. Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin would be one of those players.
As the sports world say on Monday Night Football, Hamlin, a Pittsburgh product and Pitt Panther, collapsed on the field in the first quarter during the game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals while tackling wide receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin remains in the hospital in Cincinnati and is reported to be in critical condition.
During Tomlin’s Tuesday press conference, he took time to talk about Hamlin as not just a player, but a man. Here is Tomlin’s full quote from the press conference:
“It’s a really personal thing for me. Being a Pittsburgher, and that young man being a Pittsburgher, I’ve known that guy probably since he was about 12. 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 it is he’s doing 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.
“Had the opportunity to express that to him whenever I see him. We played Buffalo each of the last two seasons, and he and I get to have 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 just a really cool thing, and an example of that.
“I’ve had a lot of love for that young man. We’re lifting him and that organization up in prayer. 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 just for all of us as people that thrive in this space. That’s not obviously something that you ever want to see.”
For those who want to watch/hear Tomlin speak about Hamlin, here is the video from the Steelers organization:
Coach Tomlin shares his very personal thoughts on Damar Hamlin: pic.twitter.com/gymuijitfp— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 3, 2023
Tomlin was quickly asked some questions about Hamlin and injuries of that nature, but the Steelers coach re-focused the press conference quickly stating he only wanted to talk about the team’s upcoming game vs. the Cleveland Browns in Week 18 at Acrisure Stadium.
The sports world, not just the NFL, has been shaken by the video and news of Hamlin. It’s at this point where we all send positive thoughts and prayers to the Bills, the University of Pittsburgh, and most importantly Hamlin himself and his family.