PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin collapsed during Monday night’s NFL game and was rushed to a hospital, one Rhode Island high school football coach said the incident underscored why every school needs an athletic trainer, and the dangers when safety isn’t prioritized.

Hamlin fell to the ground after making a tackle just a few minutes into Monday Night Football, other players looking on as trainers and medical staff administered CPR until an ambulance arrived to take him to the hospital.

Central High School football coach Mike Washington said the fast, life-saving response stood out, and reminded him that prior to 2021, his teams never had a trainer.

“It made me think about our situation, and how hard we fought to get a trainer,” said Washington, who’s been the coach since 2018 and played for Central from 2008 to 2011. “It was absolutely unacceptable for us to be without a trainer.” 

Washington said right before the 2022 season, a budget issue left the team without a trainer for a week.

“Player safety should be the number one priority for everyone,” he said.

Target 12 reported in December that tackle football participation is increasing at Rhode Island high schools after years of decline.

La Salle Academy football coach Geoff Marcone has coached for more than two decades, and he agreed with Washington.

“I think the way those trainers reacted, I think possibly saved that young man’s life,” Marcone said.

Marcone wants to find out what happened to Hamlin and wonders if that revelation would lead to more safety changes for the sport in the future.

“You just hope that that family and that young man pull through, and you put faith in God and faith in prayers,” he said.

Tolly Taylor (ttaylor@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook