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Why collapse of Bills’ Hamlin was 'like PTSD moment' for former football player: 'It instantly took me back'

Mom: 'It was emotional for us to watch because the hits are so similar. Their names are similar.'
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Posted at 6:07 PM, Jan 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-04 18:23:02-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- For former high school football player Samar Lemons, the tragedy during Monday night's Buffalo Bills football game was a scene that was all too familiar.

"It was like a flashback, like a PTSD moment. It just instantly took me back seeing all those people stand over top of him," he said. "I can remember when I first got hit, it was everybody standing around me. It was cold, quiet, I didn’t know what was going on."

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The Henrico High School graduate injured his spine during a football game in March of 2021 leaving him paralyzed from the shoulders down.

"On March 12th, that was the scariest night of my life," Lemons said.

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His mother and biggest cheerleader, Dana Armstead-Guy, said despite it being two years since her son was injured, seeing the incident with Damar Hamlin hit home.

"He says, 'Mom...' He looks up at me and says, 'I can’t feel my body. They said I broke my neck,'" she said, describing the moments just after her son was injured. "It was emotional for us to watch because the hits are so similar. Their names are similar."

Samar Lemons
Samar Lemons

She and Lemons said they have lived how scary those moments can be and just how dark the road following can seem.

"When you see them not in trouble, but just genuinely moving in what they like to do — and that be snatched away from them in an instant, it's hurtful because you want the best for them," she said.

Despite the difficulties, they said they choose to live life grateful for the things they can control.

"They told me I would never move my hands, I can move my hands. They said I would never breathe and on my own and I’m breathing," Lemons said.

Dion Foxx and Samar Lemons
Dion Foxx and Samar Lemons

This includes cohosting a show on ESPN radio and speaking on topics like he and Damar Hamlin's injury with former NFL player Dion Foxx.

Foxx shared his journey as a player who suffered a life changing injury.

"I couldn’t move my head, couldn’t move my neck. I had a severely sprained neck," Foxx said.

Samar Lemons and Dana Armstead-Guy
Samar Lemons and Dana Armstead-Guy

Now the Director of Student activities at George Wythe High School, Foxx and Lemons spoke on how important it is to keep pushing even when it seems like you can't.

"Only person you can listen to is God. He got the final say so, best thing you can do is pray in a situation like this," Lemons said.

He encourages those who may know a player or parent in a similar situation to keep the faith and support those you love in any way you can.

"Definitely when people come around, laugh and joke with me. It makes me feel like everything's alright," Lemons said. "Try to find moral support, try to find people that help you, don’t hold it in."

Despite his life completely changing months before graduation and just days before his 18th birthday, he and his mom continue to echo the same sentiment.

"Don’t give up. Don’t stop. Don’t quit. Keep faith in God," he said.

Samar Lemons and Dana Armstead-Guy
Samar Lemons and Dana Armstead-Guy

"Do not get lost in what you see and don’t let your emotions dictate where you’re going next. This is just a phase," Armstead- Guy said. "On March 12, 2021, I didn’t know that then. But I know I’m going through a situation, I'm never going to be stuck in it and neither is my child."

Now a freshman at Old Dominion University and majoring in computer science, Lemons said he will continue to share his story in hopes of encouraging everyone he meets to never give up. You can find his most recent episode on ESPN Radio on Facebook. 

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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