How Damar Hamlin was connected to Bills long before NFL Draft

The rookie safety grew up in Pittsburgh with second-year CB Dane Jackson and followed him to Pitt.
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Bills rookie safety Damar Hamlin is amazed at how much smaller the world keeps getting for him.

Friday, after his first practice at Bills rookie minicamp, he couldn't get over how he wound up in the NFL with his childhood friend and former Pitt teammate, Dane Jackson.

"It's really like a situation that I couldn't even imagine in my wildest dream," Hamlin told reporters in his Zoom press conference. "Dane's really like a brother to me, not just a teammate that I played with, but really like a brother to me.

"Pittsburgh is a small city ... and we're kind of from the same side of town, so we've pretty much been close my whole life. Went to different high schools, but always were tapped in to what each other had going on. And then we ended up at Pitt. It was right and left hand at Pitt. And to be here together, it's just great to have the comfortability right here under one roof."

Though neither may find starting jobs this season -- Hamlin definitely will learn behind Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, and Jackson will compete with Levi Wallace and others for a spot on the outside opposite Tre'Davious White -- they are building blocks for the team's future and could play in the same defensive backfield for the next decade.

They come with built in rapport.

"Just situational ball, knowing the player on and off the field," Hamlin said, "you're just able to get a feel for where he'll be, what he'll do and just things like that."

For now, Hamlin is just trying to wrap his head around his first steps as a professional.

"Jogging onto the field when we first started, that was kind of a surreal feeling," Hamlin said. "... Just knowing that I'm actually here, I can't take that for granted. I'm in a blessed position that I know a lot of people would want to be in. So I just kind of cherished it.

"Running out onto that field, that's when it first hit me that I'm here and it's just time to work."

Both are fortunate to have joined an ascending team.

Now it's up to both to do their part in keeping the Bills trending in the right direction.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro.