The Damar Hamlin situation put the nation on edge last Monday night. With an untold number of people praying for him and worrying about him, Hamlin’s well-being became the focus of the nation’s concern.
But imagine being a student-athlete getting ready to play in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on Monday, Jan. 9. You’re about to play on the biggest stage imaginable, and the thought of a horrific injury like the one that befell Hamlin isn’t far from the front of your mind.
That’s what Kirby Smart, head coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs, and Sonny Dykes, head coach of the Texas Christian University (TCU) Horned Frogs realized in the ramp-up to Monday’s game.
Athletes on both teams, including Georgia Bulldogs safety Javon Bullard, who plays the same position as Hamlin, expressed how harrowing Hamlin’s injury was.
“Probably one of the most scariest things I’ve ever seen, not knowing if someone’s gonna make it on a football field,” Bullard told the Associated Press.
TCU cornerback Josh Newton said that what made Hamlin’s injury so scary was that it took place during a routine play.
“I mean, that tackle happens in almost every football game,” Newton told the AP. “He just got hit at the wrong place at the wrong time. Like that’s something nobody’s ever seen.”
The University of Georgia has one of the premier athletic trainers in the country in Ron Courson, and Smart realized the resource that Courson could provide in reassuring the Bulldogs players. Smart held a team meeting on Tuesday in which the team addressed Hamlin’s situation.
“The very next morning, the first thing we did was bring in a mental health specialist, we brought in an athletic trainer, we brought in a team chaplain,” Smart told Dawg Post. “We prayed and we also addressed it from a mental health standpoint.”
Courson lent his expertise to explain the medical response to a scenario like Hamlin’s.
“Ron educated players on exactly what happened,” Smart said. “You have to have people in place to save lives, and what an incredible job they did on the scene to make sure that he has an opportunity to recover from it… The education piece was important to us to ensure our players that the safety measures are there.”
Dykes addressed the injury with his team this week as well.
“I’ve always been a believer that when things like this happen, there’s always a cloud. There’s always a certain level of anxiety. And I’ve found the best way to deal with that is to talk through it,” Dykes said, as reported by WFAA.
Georgia defensive line coach Tray Scott told the AP that coaches undergo medical training in addition to their regular coaching duties.
“Every offseason they make the coaches and everyone on the staff go through strenuous CPR training. So if anything happened to my guys right now, I’m not gonna hesitate a beat. ‘Hey you go get the AED. I’ll do this. You call 911.’ … It’s all about information,” he said.
On Monday night, no matter what happens, you can rest assured that both teams will have coaches and medical staff looking out for them.