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Former local NFL player reflects with shock

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Jan. 4—HIGH POINT — William Hayes of High Point spent 11 years playing on the elite level of skilled football, but he couldn’t have imagined what the nation witnessed occur to Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin on Monday night.

During a televised game between the Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, Hamlin collapsed almost immediately after successful to the chest while tackling a Bengals receiver. Tens of hundreds of fans at Cincinnati’s stadium went eerily quiet as medical staff gave Hamlin CPR and an ambulance got here onto the sphere to take Hamlin, whose heart stopped beating, to a close-by hospital.

Hayes and his wife, Candace Humphrey, who run the award-winning local Q’s Corner gym and play area designed specifically for youngsters with disabilities and special needs, were at home Monday evening but weren’t watching the sport.

Hayes said that his father called to ask if he had seen Hamlin’s injury, and Hayes turned on “Monday Night Football.”

“It’s scary,” he told The High Point Enterprise on Tuesday.

As a defensive lineman within the NFL before retiring 4 years ago, Hayes has a perspective on the events that few people do.

Hayes, 37, said that in his long football profession, which included playing at Andrews High School and Winston-Salem State University, he saw some gruesome injuries, including broken bones and concussions. But he never expected to see an NFL player lay near death on the sphere after his heart stopped.

“When it happened — I’m being honest with you — I thanked God that I never experienced that,” Hayes said. “It might have been hard for me to join football if I knew that might have happened. I’ve never seen that before on any level. I just couldn’t imagine it.”

The injury to Hamlin was so shocking that eventually Hayes turned the station because the photographs bothered him so deeply.

“I just got finished doing that 4 years ago,” said Hayes, whose profession included fidgeting with the Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans and the St. Louis and Los Angeles Rams.

Story continues

Hayes realized initially of his football profession that he was signing as much as play a sport where severe injuries, even broken bones, were possible, and he said he feels pain to today related to football.

But what happened to Hamlin is the next level of danger.

“That was beyond disturbing,” Hayes said.

pjohnson@hpenews.com — 336-888-3528 — @HPEpaul

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