As Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin watched on from his hospital bed, his teammate Nyheim Hines sent the NFL world into frenzy with a history-making performance that honoured Hamilin in the best way possible. The Bills had dedicated Monday (AEDT) morning’s NFL clash against the New England Patriots to Hamiln, whose life had been in the balance after suffering a cardiac arrest on field during the Bills' clash with the Cincinnati Bengals a week earlier.
Following an outpouring of love and support for Hamlin pre-game, Hines wasted no time putting an exclamation point on the proceedings, returning the game’s opening kick-off 96 yards for a touchdown. Hines caught the ball on his own 4-yard line, before working his way toward the right sideline and putting on the afterburners to run into the end-zone untouched.
Hines reached a top speed of 34.2 km/h on the touchdown run and celebrated by leaping into the stands with the Bills fans as iconic CBS commentator Jim Nantz exclaimed “This is storybook!”. The fairytale start, after what had been a difficult and emotional week for the Bills organisation, left many NFL fans and pundits on social media in disbelief.
However, no one's reaction to Hines' touchdown was more significant than Hamlin’s own, who tweeted ‘OMFG!!!!!!!!!!!!!’ from the University of Cincinnati Health Center where he watched the game. Hines was not done there, though.
He became the first Bills player to have two kickoff return touchdowns in the same game when he made another house call with the Bills trailing 17-14 in the third quarter. On this occasion, Hines caught the ball one yard deep in his own end-zone, before escaping a tackle from Patriots cornerback Myles Bryant and going 101 yards for another touchdown.
Hines is the first player to accomplish the feat of having two kickoff return touchdowns in the same game since Leon Washington did it for the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. The historic performance from Hines played a key role in the Bills running out 35-23 winners, finishing the season top of the AFC East division with a 13-3 record.
Buffalo Bills pay tribute to team's medical staff
Prior to kick-off, the Bills held a ceremony acknowledging those who saved Hamlin's life by naming all the team's medical personnel and training staff, while some Bills players carried 'Pray for Damar' flags with them onto the field. After scoring one of the Bills’ touchdowns during the game, receiver Josh Brown gave the game ball to the member of the Bills medical staff who had performed life-saving CPR on Hamlin less than a week earlier.
Following the Bills’ victory, Hamiln tweeted out details of a fundraising campaign aiming to raise money for first responders and the UC Trauma Center.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.