Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who suffered cardiac arrest and was resuscitated on the field during a game at Cincinnati and went on to make a full recovery, was selected as the 2023 George Halas Award winner by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Hamlin, the 55th Halas Award winner, is the second member of the Bills franchise to receive the honor from the PFWA, joining Kevin Everett (2008).
Other 2023 finalists for the Halas Award were New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, San Francisco 49ers/Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr. and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith.
The Halas Award is given to an NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed. The award is named for Halas, a charter member (1963) of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who was associated with the Chicago Bears and NFL from their inception in 1920 until his death in 1983 as an owner, manager, player and promoter. Halas won 324 games and six NFL titles in 40 seasons as a coach.
The Halas Award is one of the two oldest awards presented by the PFWA, along with the Bill Nunn Jr. Award, presented to a reporter who has made a long and distinguished contribution to pro football through coverage.
Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field in Cincinnati during the first quarter of a Monday Night Football game on Jan. 2, 2023. After making a tackle of a Cincinnati receiver, Hamlin got up, and then collapsed. Almost immediately, field medical personnel reached him and began CPR and other procedures for nearly 20 minutes. Hamlin’s heartbeat was restored, and he was transported to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in critical condition. He spent a week in the hospital before he was flown to Buffalo for further treatment. He was finally released on January 11. Medical professionals later concluded that Hamlin had an episode of “commotio cordis”, an extremely rare consequence of blunt force trauma to the heart that happens at exactly the wrong time in the heart rhythm, causing the heart to stop beating effectively. On April 18, 2023, Hamlin was cleared to resume playing, and announced that he planned on making a comeback to the NFL.
ABOUT THE PFWA: In its 60th season in 2023, the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA) is the official voice of pro football writers, promoting and fighting for access to NFL personnel to best serve the public. The PFWA is made up of accredited writers who cover the NFL and the 32 teams daily. Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News is the PFWA president for the 2023-24 seasons and the organization’s 31st president. Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post is the PFWA’s first vice-president, Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic is the second vice-president, Lindsay Jones of The Ringer is the advisor to the president and Mike Sando of The Athletic is the secretary-treasurer. At-large board members include Mike Jones of The Athletic, ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, Joe Reedy of the Associated Press and ProFootballTalk.com’s Charean Williams. Follow the PFWA at ProFootballWriters.org and on Twitter at @PFWAwriters.
GEORGE HALAS AWARD WINNERS (To the NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed) Year indicates when award was presented for previous season: 1969 – Joe Namath (New York Jets); 1970 – Gale Sayers (Chicago Bears); 1971 – Tom Dempsey (New Orleans Saints); 1972 – Jimmy Johnson (San Francisco 49ers); 1973 – Mike Tilleman (Atlanta Falcons); 1974 – Dick Butkus (Chicago Bears); 1975 – Rocky Bleier (Pittsburgh Steelers); 1976 – Billy Kilmer (Washington Redskins); 1977 – Tom DeLeone (Cleveland Browns); 1978 – Pat Fischer (Washington Redskins); 1979 – Bert Jones (Baltimore Colts); 1980 – Roger Staubach (Dallas Cowboys); 1981 – Rolf Benirschke (San Diego Chargers); 1982 – Joe Klecko (New York Jets); 1983 – Eddie Lee Ivery (Green Bay Packers); 1984 – Ted Hendricks (Los Angeles Raiders); 1985 – John Stallworth (Pittsburgh Steelers); 1986 – Gary Jeter (Los Angeles Rams); 1987 – William Andrews (Atlanta Falcons); 1988 – Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers); 1989 – Karl Nelson (New York Giants); 1990 – Tim Krumrie (Cincinnati Bengals); 1991 – Dan Hampton (Chicago Bears); 1992 – Mike Utley (Detroit Lions); 1993 – Mark Bavaro (Cleveland Browns); 1994 – Joe Montana (San Francisco 49ers); 1995 – Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins); 1996 – Larry Brown (Oakland Raiders); 1997 – Jim Harbaugh (Indianapolis Colts); 1998 – Mark Schlereth (Denver Broncos); 1999 – Dan Reeves (Atlanta Falcons); 2000 – Bryant Young (San Francisco 49ers); 2001 – Kerry Collins (New York Giants); 2002 – Garrison Hearst (San Francisco 49ers); 2003 – Robert Edwards (Miami Dolphins); 2004 – Sam Mills (Carolina Panthers); 2005 – Mark Fields (Carolina Panthers); 2006 – Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts); 2007 – Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints); 2008 – Kevin Everett (Buffalo Bills); 2009 – Matt Bryant (Tampa Bay Buccaneers); 2010 – Mike Zimmer (Cincinnati Bengals); 2011 – Mike Heimerdinger (Tennessee Titans); 2012 – Robert Kraft (New England Patriots); 2013 – Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts); 2014 – O.J. Brigance (Baltimore Ravens); 2015 – Steve Gleason (New Orleans Saints); 2016 – Eric Berry (Kansas City Chiefs); 2017 – David Quessenberry (Houston Texans); 2018 – Marquise Goodwin (San Francisco 49ers); 2019 – Ryan Shazier (Pittsburgh Steelers); 2020 – Travis Frederick (Dallas Cowboys); 2021 – Alex Smith (Washington Football Team); 2022 – Ron Rivera (Washington Football Team); 2023 – Damar Hamlin (Buffalo Bills)