SPRINGFIELD, Mo–As you saw earlier in the news, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin remains in critical condition after he suffered cardiac arrest on the field in Monday night’s game between the Bills and Bengals.
The incident hit close to home to Evangel coach Chuck Hepola.
And he hopes it also provides another lesson for coaches everywhere.
Chuck Hepola was not watching Monday Night Football.
But once he got word of Damar Hamlin’s injury, memories of two years ago flooded back.
“There wasn’t even a hit that took place. One of our quarterbacks had noticed something with one of our players. He hollered at me. We brought him right over to the trainer and then right then it occured…Everything came to a screeching halt at practice. We stopped and thank goodness for our training staff. Being able to step in quickly and take care of what needed to be taken care of. That young man’s life was saved,” said Hepola.
Hepola has been around football most of his life.
He’s coached at the high school and college level.
And has been Evangel’s coach for the past seven years.
But he never gets used to incidents like what happened to the Bills Damar Hamlin.
Hepola:”Man I tell you what, it’s tough. It’s tough to even think about from time to time. For the test of your life you’re thinking about that person. Hoping they’ll continue to be OK.”
That Valor football player never played the game again.
But Hepola goes to work every day responsible for hundreds of players under his watch.
And for a number of years, one of those players was his son.
Hepola:”I know on my end I feel a responsibility because when you’re recruiting a young man you’re assuring their parents that you’re going to take good care of them. And there are things that happen.”
Hepola stresses the important of procedures.
Having qualified health professionals at practice and games.
Evangel’s doctors examine every Valor player before he can step on the field.
And even Hepola has adapted.
“I bring my cell phone out to the football field now. So I’ll always have my cell phone with me. So if there was something that would happen that I would instantly need to make a call that we’ll do that. That’s something ten years ago I would not have done,” said Hepola.
Another thing that caught Hepola’s eye from Monday night, the Bills and Bengals praying.
“Prayer is the number one thing. It’s what needs to happen. When you pray you allow God to be God. When you don’t pray you’re God. So you have to let the God of the Universe intervene in situations like this,” said Hepola.
Hepola experienced that two years ago.
“God was watching our for us absolutely. Again I’ll never forget that,” said Hepola.