‘I used to be blessed to have Damar:’ Eagles’ Miles Sanders shares bond with Bills’ Hamlin
FOX Sports Insider
PHOENIX — There are just a few pictures on the partitions in Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni’s workplace, however there’s one which holds a particular place in his coronary heart. It is of working again Miles Sanders and defensive sort out Fletcher Cox … and a lot extra.
It can be, not directly, of Damar Hamlin, and unquestionably, to Sirianni, the embodiment of all the pieces the coach has tried to instill in his locker room.
The image was taken Jan. 8, when the soccer world was nonetheless shaken by the on-field collapse of Buffalo Bills security Hamlin six days earlier. No one was extra impacted than Sanders, Hamlin’s finest buddy relationship again to their days as Pittsburgh-area center schoolers.
As the Eagles ready to return to motion, Cox put his arm round Sanders, 25, and whispered some phrases of help in his ear.
“Our greatest motivation is to play for each other,” Sirianni advised me Monday night time. “The picture I have is of Miles wearing the Damar shirt and Fletcher Cox having his arms around him before we went out (to play). You can see the emotion on their faces. What you saw is teammates being there for each other.
“These guys undergo ups and downs in a season, undergo ups and downs in life, they usually obtained 52 different brothers and much more which can be there for them. That was a tough time for all of us which can be concerned on this sport.”
Super Bowl LVII on Sunday (6:30 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App) will be the biggest game of Sanders’ career, just like it will be for most of the Eagles and Chiefs. As he steps out in Arizona, he will carry thoughts of Hamlin with him. They’re that close, texting, FaceTiming and calling on a daily basis.
When Hamlin fell to the ground in a Monday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals, received on-field treatment and was swiftly hospitalized, Sanders said he was “terrified.”
Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, right, was there for teammate Miles Sanders during some trying moments. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
He struggled to think clearly, sick with worry. Through good times and bad in his personal life, Hamlin is one of the key voices Sanders turns to. This time, obviously, that wasn’t an option. The reaction of his teammates, he said, was critical to his own coping and healing.
Now, the concern is over, and the experience of the past month, combined with the Eagles’ dramatic playoff run, feels like a whirlwind.
“It is a blessing, and I am kind of lost for words to see my boy have that happen,” Sanders said Monday. “I thank everybody (around) the whole world for spreading love and that positivity toward him for him to be able to wake up.
“We were good friends before high school, through little league football, ages 13 or 14. We became better friends in high school with us both being high recruits and going to the same camps. Growing up I was very observant, and my mom taught me to leave away the people who don’t have your best interest. I was blessed to have Damar.”
Cox is one of the team leaders, a big brother presence of sorts, and one of the holdovers from the Super Bowl triumph five years ago.
Sanders has immense respect for the 11-year veteran, even though they don’t talk on a daily basis. That the support he received from Cox was noticed by Sirianni, and clearly means something special to the coach, only enhanced the goodwill vibes.
“A lot of players have off-the-field stuff that goes on. Everybody has their personal stuff,” Sanders added. “A lot of people like to look past that and look at us just as football players. That was just a moment with me and Fletcher … that means a lot to me. I won’t share what he said, that’s for us, but Fletcher texted me again later on that day to say he had my back. So yeah, that picture means a lot.”
For Cox, the situation was one that, in many ways, had little to do with football. He has been around long enough, seen enough, felt enough — the rough and the smooth — to be able to tell when his support will be of benefit.
“People don’t always know when someone is watching,” Cox said. “I’ve been watching Miles grow from a rookie into a man, and I could feel what he was going through. We all go through struggles because we are all human. I know how close him and Damar are and could see the hurt in his eyes.
“You see the pain, you see everything. I made sure I found him (that game) to grab his neck, to let him know I always had his back. To let him know I’m always there for him.”
Who knows if these recollections are just a heartwarming story and nothing more, or indicative of something deeper.
Miles Sanders’ advice to his younger self
Eagles running back Miles Sanders gives advice to his younger self to be patient and follow the course.
Sirianni has most definitely tried to foster a spirit of brotherhood during his two years in charge, wishing his players to back each other wherever, and whenever, it is required.
His other favorite photo is of Jalen Hurts, having just thrown an incomplete pass on fourth-and-10 to end a game in defeat last season. Hurts stood with his hands on his knees, while offensive tackle Jordan Mailata placed his hand on his shoulder.
Togetherness is a concept of all team sports, and those who do it best gain an intangible edge. And it is during the most testing of personal moments when that fortitude, that resilience, that bonding, is perhaps most vital.
“You are lucky if you have people to help you get through,” Sirianni said. “That was on display in the Philadelphia Eagles and our building.”
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the every day publication.
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