OLATHE, Kan. — There’s never a moment in James McGinnis’ life there aren’t obvious reminders of what happened on the football field back in 2014. But he and his family have seldom seen something play out so similar as the Monday Night Football game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals.
“It takes me back to the moment that I went down,” McGinnis, 26, said.
“He got up from his injury adjusted his face mask then collapsed,” Patrick McGinnis said describing both Bills Safety Damar Hamlin cardiac arrest and his son who suffered a subdural hematoma.
“The two teams kneeled down and prayed just like we saw last night. Everything about last night was just like it was on the field when James collapsed including the expressions on the players faces,” Patrick McGinnis said.
But back in 2014 the game between Olathe East and South, which stood at 40-3 in the 3rd quarter, continued after McGinnis was taken by ambulance to the hospital where doctors told his parents he wasn’t expected to survive. They played subsequent weeks too.
“They’d go to practice and come by the hospital after and stay until Midnight,” the elder McGinnis said of James teammates, several of whom reached out Monday night after watching tense moments again unfold on the field.
Fifteen later when McGinnis turned a corner and the family was told he’d be able to start years of therapy for a traumatic brain injury that’s slowed his speech and caused tingling in his hands and feet making many tasks difficult.
“I still love the sport,” James said about football.
Along the way then Kansas City Chief Center Mitch Morse took him under his wing. The McGinnis family have been in touch with the now Buffalo Bill since Monday night.
McGinnis was the 2014 Nathan Stiles Inspiration Award winner, named for a former Spring Hill player who died from the same injury in 2010.
“What struck me about the (ESPN) newscast last night they kept talking about we’ve never seen this before,” McGinnis said.
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research 456 players nationwide have died directly due to football since 1965.
Now an artist, McGinnis sees each day as a gift, spreading a message of love and positivity.
“I believe Damar will make it through this, I do,” McGinnis said.
Hamlin remained in critical condition Tuesday night. McGinnis’s father says he hopes local schools take a page from the NFL playbook and call off the game after potentially life-altering or life-ending plays.