There are moments when the world of sports transcends the narrow boundaries of a game to elevate fans and athletes to a place far beyond the mundane.
Sunday’s opening kickoff return for a touchdown by Nyheim Hines of the Buffalo Bills — after a roller-coaster week of emotions that followed Monday night’s on-field incident in which Buffalo safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest — was just that kind of moment seared into the memory of everyone who watched and saw more than just another play.
“I can’t remember a play that touched me like that, I don’t think, in my life. It’s probably No. 1,” Bills quarterback Josh Allen said in his postgame news conference.
“It was just spiritual. I was going around and — I was just going around to my teammates saying, ‘God’s real.’ Like, you can’t, you can’t draw that one up, write that one up any better,” he said.
Allen — wearing a cap with Hamlin’s jersey number, 3 — started wiping his eyes and paused.
“I was just told by [Bills communications director] Kevin Kearns, it’s been three years and three months — since the last kickoff return, so, it’s pretty cool,” he said.
The Hines touchdown lit the fuse that powered Buffalo to a 35-23 win over the arch-rival New England Patriots in their regular season finale.
Hamlin, who is still on the long road to recovery, watched the game from a Cincinnati hospital and tweeted his celebration of the 96-yard score.
“I’m speechless. I’m so thankful it was me to bring that juice,” Hines said after the game, according to CNN.
“That’s what I always thought about, and that’s what I thought all day. It’s just bigger than me and bigger than those 10 guys who did a great job of blocking for me,” he said.
Hines later returned a second kickoff for a touchdown, becoming the 11th player in NFL history with multiple kickoff return touchdowns in a game.
After the game, Buffalo players talked about two subjects – Hamlin and God.
“I just thank Him, and it’s a coincidence how something like that happens. That’s all His work,” cornerback Taron Johnson said, referring to Buffalo’s three interceptions during the game, matching Hamlin’s jersey number, according to ESPN.
“Hopefully, Damar’s smiling, hopefully Damar’s happy, hopefully he’s doing better. This one was definitely for D-Ham,” he said.
Cornerback Tre’Davious White said how the team pulled together a win was beyond him.
“Honestly, I don’t know how some of us did it,” White said.
“I’ve seen traumatic things in my life just growing up where I grew up at and just in the environment that I’ve been raised in, but it was always the end result of me walking up and seeing it. But there was never a time where I saw every event, everything transpire to the end. So, it’s tough, man,” he said.
“To him getting up, to him falling, to everything, it’s just something that I can’t unsee,” White said. “Every time I close my eyes, it replays. I try watching TV, and every time the TV go to commercial, it’s just the only thing that comes to my mind, just the vision of that.
“So, it’s been a tough week. It’s been a tough week for our whole team. But it’s not about us right now. It’s about Damar and his family, man, and just what they had to go through. … And hopefully we’ll never have to go through this again.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.