(WIVB) — As the Buffalo Bills prepare for their game against the Cincinnati Bengals, so are the fans.
That includes one person who went viral for his sign of support for Damar Hamlin after he collapsed on the field. Josh Collins, who lives in a suburb just outside of Columbus, Ohio, said he’s been looking forward to attending this game since he saw it on the schedule.
“I love Buffalo; it’s my third home,” Collins said. “Damar calls Cincinnati his third home. Well, Buffalo is mine.”
It’s been that way since Jan. 2, when Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest and Collins used a marker and piece of cardboard to send a message: Pray for Damar.
“I was just trying to show support in a situation of need, and from that moment on I’ve gained thousands of friends on Facebook,” he said. “Some of them I truly call my family.”
In the months that have followed, Collins has become an honorary member of Bills Mafia – even getting his own orange and black Water Buffalo hat.
In March, he had the chance to meet Hamlin, viral sign in hand.
“I got to get the actual sign autographed by Damar, and then I brought it home and had it framed and everything. It’s hung up in my house next to my fireplace in the living room,” Collins said.
Collins has become an advocate for the lifesaving skill of CPR. He became certified on the same field trainers used the procedure to save Hamlin’s life.
“That was my déjà vu moment, was when I was on that field, because that’s the first time I’ve ever stepped on that field, actually on the turf,” Collins said. “I got to walk over to the spot where Damar made his tackle, and I cried for a minute. It was so awesome to be learning CPR in that moment.”
After going viral, some Bills fans sent Collins donations. He used that money to purchase an AED for the youth sport organization he runs. He also received a special AED from the Hamlin family that he keeps with him wherever he goes.
Through all of this, Collins has picked up a motto: two teams, one family.
“The love that they showed me, I just have to show it back. That’s what Damar says, right? You put love out and it’s going to come back three times as much,” Collins said. “I did a little thing and it’s come back 300 times as much.”
As for the sign he’s planning to hold up for this game, it’s a surprise. Collins has three different ideas planned, but he’s waiting for the big reveal on Sunday.