God may not pick the winners, but a ‘spiritual awakening’ is taking place in an NFL locker room

In the wake of Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin’s on-field resuscitation Jan. 2, it seems a spiritual revival is taking place in the Buffalo locker room.

Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen calls it “a…

In the wake of Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin’s on-field resuscitation Jan. 2, it seems a spiritual revival is taking place in the Buffalo locker room.

Bills’ quarterback Josh Allen calls it “a spiritual awakening.”

“I said this in my press conference the other day – just kind of a spiritual awakening for really me, and I know for a lot of other people that maybe didn’t have the strongest belief or [are the] strongest Christian followers,” Allen told sports talk show host Kyle Brandt last week.

It began when Hamlin collapsed on the game field, receiving CPR nearly immediately as teammates and opposing players gathered and looked on in disbelief. Medical personnel later revealed he suffered cardiac arrest.

As players and coaches knelt in prayer on the field, calls for prayer went out on air and on social media, and continued in the hours and days following.

Hamlin, who graduated from Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, had talked about the importance of prayer in the locker room just weeks before the injury: 

“I can’t even describe it, but I cherish it every second that I can, every second of every day. We just had our prayer, our DB [defensive backs] prayer we do every Wednesday,” Hamlin told the hosts of the One Bills Live show. “Outside he was next to me, and I just grabbed his hand a little bit harder just because you never know when the last day could be that you get to experience something like this, you know. So I’m cherishing it every moment I can.” 

The day after the injury, it seemed the whole nation was praying for Hamlin. Former NFL Quarterback and ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky even prayed to God on live television. NFL teams joined the Buffalo Bills in changing their social media profiles to an image of Hamlin’s number 3 with the slogan “Pray for Damar.” 

For a moment, political correctness was laid aside and Christians in high and low places expressed and practiced their faith publicly.  

Then came the reports about Hamlin’s recovery. He was communicating with doctors through writing, still intubated. Doctors reported he was neurologically “intact.” Then they removed the breathing tube, and he was able to talk. He spoke with teammates in a video call before the Bills faced the Patriots in the season finale – still just a few days after his heart stopped. 

Allen reflected on it once again with Brandt: “What had transpired here – it’s a crazy feeling that’s something I’ve never felt before. It’s something that I know a lot of my teammates had never felt before. And you really can’t do anything but accept it and, you know, lean on your brothers and share that moment with them.” 

Whatever spiritual revival was happening in the hearts of Bills players or others, they would soon experience another wonder, the kind that leaves even skeptics scratching their heads. 

Six days after Hamlin’s Monday night injury, the Bills received the opening kickoff from the Patriots. In the Bills’ first play since seeing their teammate collapse, running back Nyheim Hines ran the ball 96 yards for a touchdown, being clocked at a career best 21.25 mph, faster than any of the Bills had run all season. The team hadn’t even returned a kickoff for a touchdown in over three years.  

The deeper you look, the more unbelievable the statistics become. Hamlin’s number 3, worn as patches by his teammates and plastered just about everywhere in the NFL that week, showed up in ways that players later attributed to God.  

Hines’ touchdown return occurred exactly three years and three months after the Bills’ previous. Allen threw three touchdown passes. The defense had three interceptions. Also unlikely, Hines returned another kickoff for a touchdown in the second half. 

“God is good. He really is. I just urge everybody to keep praying for [Hamlin],” Allen told Tracy Wolfson of CBS after the game. 

In his postgame press conference, Allen continued to talk about it. 

“It’s just spiritual man. I just, I was going around my team saying, ‘God’s real.’ Like you can’t draw that one up, write that one up any better. And I was just told by Kevin Kearns it’s been three years and three months since the last kickoff return, so pretty cool,” Allen said at the podium after the game, as his voice cracked with emotion.  

A few days later, Allen reiterated what he felt with Brandt: 

“I’ve never been struck like that before from a play, from an experience, from an emotion. It’s never hit me that way before. And again, like I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t been the most devoted Christ follower in my life and I’ve had my different beliefs and thoughts and ideas and stuff like that.  

“But you know something got a hold of me there, and it was it was extremely powerful that, you know, I couldn’t deny.” 

Allen told Brandt about how he had been raised going to church, but hadn’t been attending much as much as he “should” as an adult. 

Even head coach Sean McDermott has openly attributed the team’s experience, and especially Hamlin’s recovery, to the hand of God.  

“Glory to God for His keeping Damar and his family in the palm of His hand over the last couple of days and His healing powers,” he said in a press conference before the Patriots game. 

Is God healing a football player before the nation’s eyes, turning the hearts of a team – and perhaps others – to Him?  

It wouldn’t be the first time God brought a Great Awakening to New York – or a small awakening to football players. 

“I think this conversation that we’re having right now – we’ve had all these conversations in our locker room and it’s been really cool to see how guys have been moved and touched by this whole instance and situation,” Allen told Brandt. “And to see the country come together in support for Damar and, you know, maybe having those talks…  

“Again, I can’t chalk it down to anything else but a higher power.”