Damar Hamlin Surprises Teen Athlete Who Returned to Track After Heart Surgery: 'I'm Inspired' (Exclusive)

Watch an exclusive clip of the Buffalo Bills safety as he prepares to surprise a teen athlete who underwent heart surgery

<p>Christopher Polk/Getty </p> Damar Hamlin at the 2023 ESPYS

Christopher Polk/Getty

Damar Hamlin at the 2023 ESPYS

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was inspired when he made a surprise visit to meet Zeke, a teen athlete who returned to the track after undergoing heart surgery.

In the clip, which aired last night on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, Hamlin, 25, tells correspondent Priscilla Thompson how Zeke's story resonated with him.

"I knew the road that it takes to be able to go through something very tough, very challenging, and be able to shift your mind and not let that determine what you want to do with your life or who you want to become," says Hamlin, who returned to the NFL this past season after his own health scare.

On Jan. 2, 2023, the Bills safety had to be resuscitated on the field during a game and was transferred to the hospital in critical condition; Hamlin was discharged after nine days in a Cincinnati hospital and continued his recovery in Buffalo.

The Bills safety says, "It's inspiring" to watch Zeke "overcome" his situation after "getting his football dreams snatched away from him" due to his heart condition.

"Having to shift his gears to band and track and other passions that he had, and to be excelling in those passions, it's inspiring to me," Hamlin says in the clip.

Related: Damar Hamlin Tears Up as He Honors First Responders Who Saved His Life at ESPYS: 'It's a Blessing'

During his conversation with Thompson, the Buffalo Bills safety said he feels "super blessed to still be able to play football and be in the NFL" after his health scare, "but that was a process of finding out if I'd be able to," he explains.

Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Damar Hamlin
Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Damar Hamlin

Related: Damar Hamlin Reveals Cause of His Cardiac Arrest: 'Leading Cause of Death in Youth Athletes'

Meeting Zeke in person was important to Hamlin, who told Thompson he prefers to "get out on the front lines and really do the work" when it comes to his community involvement and advocating for heart health awareness. Hamlin says it's "much more heartfelt" and "more meaningful" for him to meet the inspiring athletes overcoming adversity in person, so he can connect with them.

Just after he completed his first season back in the NFL, Hamlin spoke to PEOPLE about the emotional return. "It was a journey. It was a journey of emotions. It was very tough at first," he said.

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"I learned a lot about myself, about who I was, about what I stood for, about just trying to get back to myself. It was one of my hardest hurdles, but I was doing it while being around all of these great men, all these great people who stand for a lot of good things, who checked on me, who pushed me, and who motivated me."

Hamlin added, "It wasn't about anything else but just us, and one thing I love about football is just the comradery and the brotherhood that you built behind the scenes and in the locker room. That was the most beautiful thing to me, my brothers just making sure I was okay at every second checking on me, but also pushing me to be better."

Hamlin's full meeting with Zeke aired Thursday on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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Read the original article on People.