Damar Hamlin celebrated for achievements on and off the field

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Damar Hamlin is a star on the field, but his work off the field reveals the man beneath the uniform.

He is committed to public service – so much so he formed a nonprofit foundation before he was even drafted by the NFL.

So how did this 24-year-old become a man admired by many? Perhaps his childhood gives us some insight.

There was no doubt: this little boy from McKees Rocks, Penn. was an athlete. He flourished in the little community outside Pittsburgh. And there was no cheerleader more enthusiastic than his mom, Nina.

Life was far from easy. Nina was 16 when she gave birth to Damar. And then the father of her child, Mario Hamlin, was sent to prison for three-and-a-half years for drug dealing.

But when Mario was released, he helped Nina start a cleaning business.

At age 12, Damar started working there to help his family while his mom also ran a day care.

Years later at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, he became the the top-rated defensive player in Pennsylvania.

Damar Hamlin signs autographs for students from Rochster City School District. (Photo: RCSD)

His high school joining the chorus of people asking for prayers.

The high school standout was recruit by Notre Dame, Penn State, and UCLA, but chose to stay home and go to the University of Pittsburgh because he said he wanted to stay close to his little brother to be a positive role model.

At Pittsburgh as a safety, he was considered one of the school’s most productive defenders because he worked so incredibly hard. But the college star always put community first.

Before he was drafted by the NFL, he formed the Chasin M’s Foundation, which supports kids in Pittsburgh through camps, back-to-school events, and toy drivers.

Community kids streamed into his mother’s day care for toys provided by the hometown hero.

It’s that spirit fans immediately noticed at training camp: a spirit that attracted others, a spirit that is infectious.

The 24-year old even started his own clothing line, Chasing Millions, providing clothes and jerseys for kids. He is quoted as saying, “I’ll never forget where I come from, and I am using my platform to positively impact my community.”

And he didn’t only impact children in his hometown. The Rochester City School District tweeted Tuesday about the impact he made on their students when he took the time to greet them, encourage them, and sign autographs while in the Flower City.

Now, a nation prays for his recovery.