Eagles' Miles Sanders reflects on miracle conversation with Damar Hamlin

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Sanders reflects on miracle conversation with Damar Hamlin originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The first thing Miles Sanders said to Damar Hamlin was, “Why the bleep you scare me like that?”

They both laughed, and then Sanders repeated it: “Why the bleep you scare me like that.”

Sanders and Hamlin have been best friends since both were high school football stars in Pittsburgh, Sanders at Woodland Hills and Hamlin at Central Catholic.

So you can imagine what a difficult week it’s been for Sanders, who thought he lost Hamlin Monday night.

“I wasn’t watching the game, but when I got home my family told me Damar got hurt and they were giving him CPR on the field, and I couldn’t even process it,” Sanders said at his locker Friday. “I couldn’t even speak. I almost had to go to the hospital myself.”

Four days later, Sanders was able to FaceTime Hamlin, who has made miraculous progress since going into cardiac arrest during the Bills-Bengals game Monday night. Sanders said Hamlin is breathing on his own and had his breathing tube removed overnight but was still using an oxygen mask. He said he's speaking clearly and was alert and in good spirits.

“It’s a miracle,” Sanders said. “I don’t know any other word for it. … His heart stopped twice on the field and a third time in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

“It scared me. It scared everybody else. But for me, being so close to him, it scared the bleep out of me, I’m not going to lie. I’m still a little shook up.”

Sanders said he told Hamlin, “You’re the most famous person in the world,” and Hamlin laughed and said, “Yeah, for the wrong reason.”

Not really. Hamlin isn’t out of the woods yet, but his miracle recovery is certainly inspiring, and the more people learn about the 24-year-old Hamlin the more people are drawn to his story.

His Chasing M’s foundation, which provides toys for underprivileged kids in the Pittsburgh area, had raised just under $8 million this week.

Sanders asked what drew him to Hamlin when they were teenagers.

“We’re kind of similar,” he said. “That’s why we clicked so much. We’re always on the same page, we do a lot of stuff in the community. He’s one of those guys I never had to worry about, he’s got both his parents in his life, he does everything for his family. He’s very selfless and I respect him a lot as a person, not just as a football player but as a person and a friend.”

Sanders and Hamlin were the top two recruits out of Pittsburgh in 2016, and they grew close even though they played at rival high schools.

“We did a lot of 7-on-7’s, went to camps together, went on school visits together, we did everything together,” Sanders said. “It wasn’t hard becoming friends when you were rivals. Even though I tell him all the time, they cheated. They were the only (high school) that recruited.”

Sanders went to Penn State and Hamlin stayed home and played at Pitt, but their friendship continued growing, and two years ago, along with three other Pittsburgh natives in the NFL, they founded the Pittsburgh to Pros camp, a free summer football camp for 300 Pittsburgh youths.

Sanders, who made his first Pro Bowl this year, said it’s been a difficult week, but he’s gotten tremendous support from his teammates and coaches as he’s prepared for a critical game against the Giants while also processing everything Hamlin has been going through.

“Everybody came up to make sure I’m good,” he said. “Even though it wasn’t me it happened to, it felt like it. That’s my dog. I was hurting. I was hurting.”

Sanders said as tough as this week has been, he’ll be fine on Sunday and what happened to Hamlin won’t change his love for football.

“No, you can’t let it, because we’ll still go out there Sunday and play, and I just know I’m going out there and representing him until he gets back and ready to play, hopefully,” he said. “Can’t really think about it. It happens. You don’t want it to, but it happens.

“We put our life on the line for this stuff and certain stuff you can’t think about. But it’s definitely something that’s eye-opening. You play your heart out and people don’t really know what you go through. I’m just happy he’s OK. I don’t even have the right words. Just happy he’s OK.”

Incredibly quick work by the trainers and medical staff at the Bengals’ Paycor Stadium saved his best friend’s life, and Sanders will always be grateful.

“I’d love to reach out to the medical people, whoever was there on site to help my boy,” Sanders said. “Man, the whole world was scared, but his family and his friends, I was terrified. … I want to find every one of them and shake their hand and thank them. They saved his life.

“You scared me, bro. You scared me. For real.”

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