ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Damar Hamlin was everywhere.
He was on the custom-made shirts worn by fans walking up Southwestern Boulevard outside Highmark Stadium.
He was on the handmade signs — “Love/pray for Damar,” “You won the game of life” — carried by diehards in the parking lot.
He was on top of a converted Volkswagen Bus, painted red and white and blue, with a heart and his No. 3 standing three feet tall on the roof.
He was on the warm-up shirts — “Love for Damar” — worn by his Bills teammates, by Bill Belichick, and by the Patriots as they passed and punted through the milky gray morning before kickoff.
Hamlin’s remarkable improvement after suffering cardiac arrest in the first quarter of last week’s game against the Bengals meant Orchard Park was a joyous environment on Sunday.
The stadium was full when the Bills’ training staff took the field right before kickoff. The quick work of the team, alongside the Bengals’ medical professionals, helped keep Hamlin alive and “neurologically intact,” according to doctors treating him in Cincinnati.
They were greeted with raucous cheers, lasting almost a minute.
Then, Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and Co. took the field. Four or five players held giant flags — “Pray for Damar,” — and every player had a No. 3 on the right side of their chests. They huddled at midfield, on top of the Bills logo, for one final regroup after one of the hardest professional weeks of their lives.
At the same time, Hamlin himself shared a photo from his hospital bed.
“GAMETIME!” he wrote, his hands in the shape of a heart.
Moments later, Nick Folk kicked off. The ball sailed all the way to the 4-yard line, and right into Nyheim Hines’s hands. He took off down the Patriots’ sideline, cruising 96 yards into the end zone.
Across the stadium, heart-shaped signs, red with a white “3″ in the middle, appeared in the stands as “Shout” echoed through the sound system.
In Buffalo, that’s something to celebrate.
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