Hamlin’s injury had a heavy impact at The Star because of the connections he has with members of the Dallas franchise.
FRISCO – The Cowboys’ team meeting was scheduled for 8:15 Wednesday morning. It was to last until at least 8:30 followed by offensive and defensive meetings.
Jonathan Evans, the associate pastor of NextGen Ministry at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship church, is the Cowboys’ team chaplain.
He presented a message of encouragement to a group of players and coaches trying to move forward after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the playing field during Monday night’s game at Cincinnati.
Evans’ message was don’t take anything for granted. Love your loved ones. Call your family. Maximize your time. Don’t be afraid. Live your life. Stop procrastinating. In one example, Evans said if you’re going to live in fear, don’t drive your car.
“I thought his spiritual guidance was what we needed to hear,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Just frankly I think like anything, when you get in tough times you just have to make sure you’ve got your resources lined up and everybody is keeping an eye on one another because – let’s be honest – nobody’s fine.”
How can anybody be alright?
Hamlin collapsed after making a tackle on Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins. Medical officials performed CPR multiple times after he collapsed. Hamlin was transported to the hospital where he remains in critical condition while in intensive care.
It was another reminder football is a brutal sport. The safety measures taken over the years have helped. But the play involving Higgins and Hamlin had nothing to do with safety. It was clean.
“No one’s out there trying to hurt no one,” linebacker Micah Parsons said. “And I know Tee Higgins personally. I doubt he intended, ‘Oh, let me put my shoulder into him.’ He’s trying to fall forward. Guys try to run through me. No one’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m trying to hurt this guy. I’m trying to help my team win.’ ”
This sport takes much from players physically and mentally. A simple play led to the entire league going on pause.
“It’s definitely scary,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “I mean, the game we play is dangerous. That’s why every time I step on the field, I take a knee and pray to God. Pray over everyone that’s playing in that game, and pray for the people that are already injured and hope for their recovery. It’s the game we play.”
How do you move forward after watching CPR performed on a football field? How do you just say let’s practice Wednesday to get ready to play Sunday?
“I don’t know if I could tell you how to move forward or how you could,” Elliott said.
Evans made it clear.
“He says, ‘You get in the film room with the coach on Monday and Sunday you’re thinking about – Monday, how is this going to look on film?” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “Not necessarily you can’t live life that day, but one day you’re going to have to answer to the big man: Did you play the game the right way? Did you do what I ask? For me, that’s as much as it was. Be thankful for your moments and be thankful for everything.”
The impact of Hamlin’s injury was felt at The Star because of the connections he has.
Hamlin is from the Pittsburgh area, attending Central Catholic high school, an all-boys school. McCarthy, another Pittsburgh guy, went to another catholic school, Bishop Boyle.
McCarthy knew Terry Totten, Hamlin’s high school coach who retired when last season ended. McCarthy reached out to some coaches at Central Catholic.
Hamlin also played three seasons with running back Qadree Ollison at Pittsburgh. Ollison, on the Cowboys’ practice squad, was half watching Monday’s game on his cell phone when it started buzzing about the injury.
“It’s heartbreaking to see something like that, but I’m also confident in him,” Ollison said. “I know who he is. I know how strong he is. I know where he comes from. So I’m also confident and I know he’ll be OK. So that’s kind of where I’m at with it. It’s tragic. It was sad to see it, but I know my brother. I know he can get through this.”
Ollison said he texted Hamlin. There’s the belief, at some point, Hamlin will read it.
Hamlin worked out with linebacker Jabril Cox in the offseason.
While you’re wondering what’s going to happen with that Bills-Bengals game or whether your fantasy football league can move forward in the playoffs, think about what defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said.
“We are humans, and I hate things [like] that have to happen for the world to understand that,” Lawrence said.
On the surface, Wednesday was normal for the Cowboys. They practiced for a Sunday game in Landover, Md., against Washington that has playoff implications. If the Giants beat the Eagles and the Cowboys defeat the Commanders, then Dallas clinches the NFC East.
It seemed so insignificant after Wednesday’s practice where a majority of questions from reporters to players were about their emotions concerning Hamlin.
McCarthy still gets choked up talking about the 2005 death of 49ers offensive lineman Thomas Herrion, who collapsed near McCarthy while the team was in prayer after a preseason game.
In 2020, Cowboys lead strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul collapsed in the weight room, dying the next day. The Cowboys had to play a game, just two days after he fell, losing to Washington on Thanksgiving Day.
Hamlin’s injury brought all those emotions to the surface again.
This is why Evans’ message was vital to a team seeking guidance.
“The message is: ‘Are you maximizing your time?’ ” Prescott said. “Because at the end of the day, the best way – how did he put it? Your age, you’re not old or young off of your birthdate but off your death date, right? So how are you taking advantage of your time and maximizing your time? You leave nothing to chance.”