Damar Hamlin’s high school friend shares memories of Bills safety


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When David Adams needed Damar Hamlin, Hamlin was always a phone call away.

As the Bills’ safety improves, there is a growing hope Adams can repay the favor.

The two were defensive stars together at Central Catholic High School, a football powerhouse in Pittsburgh, and back-to-back Pennsylvania Defensive Players of the Year for the 2015 (Hamlin) and ’16 (Adams) seasons.

Adams, who was a linebacker, is a year younger and looked up to the safety Hamlin, who graduated and stayed local at the University of Pittsburgh. A year later, Adams chose Notre Dame, but he never played a snap.

Football took its toll on Adams, who has said from high school to his college freshman year he sustained injuries ranging from concussions to torn labrums to a torn UCL to a knee surgery. In 2018, following his freshman season, he was medically disqualified from Notre Dame football and didn’t know what to do.

His phone would buzz. Hamlin didn’t have the answer, but they would chat anyway.

David Adams and Damar Hamlin celebrate winning the WPIAL Championship in 2015.
Courtesy of David Adams
David Adams and Damar Hamlin during their high school years at Central Catholic
Courtesy David Adams

“We didn’t talk a whole lot about playing football. We were just talking about life. We talked about normal, everyday things,” Adams said over the phone Wednesday. “We talked about high school. We talked about the championships we won together. Just a lot of conversation about what we’ve been through together and the bright futures that each of us have.”

As of Wednesday, Hamlin lay in a University of Cincinnati Medical Center ICU in critical condition after suffering cardiac arrest during Monday’s Bills-Bengals game. Adams spoke to Hamlin’s father, Mario, on Wednesday afternoon and relayed: “He’s improving slowly. He’s building up strength, and he’s on the right track right now.”

Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during “Monday Night Football” against the Bengals. Follow the New York Post’s live coverage for the latest news and updates on his condition.

Hamlin has to continue improving so Adams can be the one consoling by talking about anything but the game they love. For now, Adams wants the world to know what kind of person Hamlin is.

Hamlin is the type who is unfailingly helpful. Hamlin was a sophomore starter at Central Catholic, a significant feat that Adams wanted to match. So as a freshman, Adams would approach him for advice on achieving the same goal. Hamlin is more of a leader by example rather than by words, but he always had words for Adams.

David Adams and Damar Hamlin during their time as high school football teammates at Central Catholic
Courtesy of David Adams

“We would sit and we would talk through that, talk about what it took for him to get to that point,” Adams said. “And eventually I started as a sophomore.”

Hamlin is the loyal type. He and Adams, a handful of years removed from their high school days, still talk frequently and as recently as a few weeks ago. Adams needs surgery on his lower core, an issue that Hamlin suffered through as a freshman at Pittsburgh.

“He had success with a doctor out of Philadelphia, and that’s who I’m going to,” Adams said. “I was just picking his brain on the process of it.”

Hamlin is the type who cares, as his Chasing M’s Foundation charity, which raised money to distribute toys at a daycare center in Pennsylvania, exemplifies. But the sixth-round pick in 2021 was not the type to be nationally known before he collapsed on the field and required CPR.

Adams now wants the world to know Hamlin is more than a football player.

Damar Hamlin

“It’s a shame that this injury had to happen for people to get to know Damar,” said Adams, a 24-year-old working in wealth management in Pittsburgh. “He’s a very genuine and loyal person who likes to help others. And he makes himself available to those who need him.

“It’s very hard nowadays to find good people who you can trust and who you can love, and he’s a person who you can. He’s more than an athlete. He’s a great friend. I know hearing from his family — he’s a great son, a great brother — and to me he’s also family.”

Hamlin is the type who listens more than he speaks, but Adams can’t wait for him to speak again.

“When I saw him go down on the field, I instantly thought of that, and what he did for me and how much he helped me through my hard times,” Adams said. “So I plan on doing the same for him.”

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