PITTSBURGH — Levi Wallace knows just about everybody in the Buffalo Bills locker room, and over the past 36 hours, he has felt all of the emotion coming out of Orchard Park after the stunning Damar Hamlin tragedy.
Wallace, a former Bills cornerback, signed with the Steelers in the offseason. But he spent four long seasons getting to know the coaches, off-field staff, and the players. From afar, Wallace has tried to give those players as much support as he grieves himself over his friend. The Steelers talked about the Hamlin incident prior to practice today, and Wallace offered his support to those in Buffalo.
“Right now, no one cares about football,” Wallace said. “I wanted to give those guys space, but I’m part of that family still and especially the DB room. Those are my guys, but I want to give them the space or support they need to heal. I can only imagine what they were feeling live. I’ve reached out, and I know they’re grieving.”
As part of that defensive back room, Wallace got to know Hamlin as well as anybody on the team. He saw the smile that Hamlin brought to practice every day as he chased his dream. Wallace saw the mentoring that Hamlin took from Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. It all became a deeply personal event for Wallace who watched in horror from afar as a friend was seriously injured and his friends and former teammates looked stricken on the field.
“I just saw his love for the game and his gratitude as well,” Wallace said. “His smile lit up practice every day. He was super dope and refreshing, honestly. I’ve reached out to them (the Bills) and I wish the best for him. You know, I want to reach out as much as I can and help them as much I can.”
The sport means a lot to Hamlin, but his life now hangs in the balance. The human element of the game is once again taking over, and Wallace can only feel an inkling of the pain that the BIlls and their players are dealing with right now. Not just that, head coach Sean McDermott is reportedly ‘still battling’ with the grips of what is happening according to Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor emotionally talked about McDermott and the pain the Bills were facing.
“When I met him, the first thing he said was ‘I need to be at the hospital with Damar,” Taylor said. “He said he shouldn’t be coaching this game. That provided all the clarity for me in this unprecedented event.”
Wallace expressed his desire to see Hamlin back up and going again. Just like so many others, Wallace is extremely anxious for updates on the status of Hamlin. He is worried, and it is tough to focus on the tasks at hand that Pittsburgh must focus on this week. At the forefront of his mind is Hamlin’s well-being.
“I just know from last year and getting to know him and his family, he is a special guy,” Wallace said. “You can just how much this sport means to him. I’m praying for him each day and checking in on his status as often as I can.”
The league has come to a shuttering stop at the events that took place in Cincinnati on Monday. Wallace, who is part of that extended Bills family, is just one of the ricochet shots that has caught every player, coach, and staffer around in some manner.