The widow of the only NFL player to collapse on the field before dying reacted to the terrifying scene in which Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest on Monday night in the Bills’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Sharon Hughes’ husband Chuck, a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, died on October 24, 1971, late in the fourth quarter of the Lions’ game against the Chicago Bears. Sharon Hughes was watching Monday night’s game from her Texas home when she saw Hamlin collapse on the field.
“I was very emotional,” Hughes, 77, said on Tuesday.
Just as Sharon Hughes rode to the hospital in an ambulance with her husband after he collapsed on the field, Hamlin’s mother reportedly rode in an ambulance with her son after his collapse.
“Can you imagine how his mother felt?” Hughes said. “It’s a horrifying feeling, and, well, I just felt so sorry for the whole family last night.”
Brandon Shane Hughes, 53, who was almost 2 years old when his father died, said of Hamlin’s family, “I would be more than happy to speak with them. We certainly understand what they’re going through.”
“What happened to my father in 1971 is the Stone Ages as far as medicine goes compared to today,” he added. “Are these young men getting the medical care and screenings that they should?”
Chuck Hughes had starred in college at what was then Texas Western College. On the day he died, he entered the game in the fourth quarter as a replacement for an injured player. Hughes then caught a crucial 32-yard pass as the Lions, down 28-23, were driving toward a winning score late in the fourth quarter.
Three plays later, as Lions quarterback Greg Landry threw a pass dropped in the end zone by tight end Charlie Sanders, Hughes started running back to the huddle. But he collapsed at about the 20-yard line and began having convulsions.
Bears Football Hall-of-Fame middle linebacker Dick Butkus frantically alerted the officials and the sideline, prompting the Lions’ and Bears’ doctors and trainers to attempt to save Hughes. He was taken to Henry Ford Hospital, where he was pronounced dead 50 minutes after the game.
The game continued after Hughes was transported away. It was later discovered that he suffered from undiagnosed and advanced arteriosclerosis and that he died of a coronary thrombosis.
Sharon Hughes said on Tuesday, “You can’t blame football. I never did.” She added that she was only thinking about one thing regarding Hamlin: “He’s alive. Thank goodness.”