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Bills trainer who saved Damar Hamlin's life tells college graduates, 'I was ready'

Bills assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington returned to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, to speak during the spring commencement ceremonies.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills assistant athletic trainer Denny Kellington has been in the spotlight since the year began.

First, he helped save Damar Hamlin's life when he performed CPR on the field during a Monday Night Football game on Jan. 2 in Cincinnati.

A little more than a month later, his actions — and Hamlin's recovery — inspired the NFL and the American Heart Association to provide free CPR education in Phoenix, ahead of the Super Bowl. Kellington even earned an NFL MVP fifth-place vote for his heroic actions.

What he was asked to do Saturday, however, came with far less pressure. He returned to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, to speak during the school's spring commencement ceremonies.

“All the attention I've received for simply doing my job has been overwhelming. I've said repeatedly that I am not a hero, but I will tell you what, I was that day, I was ready,” Kellington said.

Kellington is a native of Midwest City, Okla. He graduated from Oklahoma State with a degree in health and human performance in 2000.

“The reason anyone knows Denny Kellington is because of one fateful and near-tragic moment on a football field,” Kellington said Saturday.

He continued: “Our safety, Damar Hamlin, had a cardiac event that could have ended his life in front of his family, his teammates, his coaches, our athletic training staff, and the millions of football fans watching in the stadium, or from the comfort of their living room TVs.”

Kellington told the graduating class to be prepared for anything as they leave campus and start their careers.

“When unexpected doors open, or life changes course, trust that your experiences have led you there and you will be ready,” Kellington said. “Today, as you ponder the next steps of your career, I want you to think about who helped get you here. Be proud of your hard work, but also be grateful for those who cheered you on, those who sacrificed and those who saw potential in you and made sure you knew your capabilities. 

“Understand this: small things done with passion and intention have the potential to make a lasting impact with ripple effects that you may never understand.”

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