Damar Hamlin makes surprise 'Masked Singer' appearance for little brother: 'I put family first'

The Buffalo Bills safety taped his feel-good cameo mere weeks after his miraculous recovery from a Jan. 2 cardiac arrest.

NFL star Damar Hamlin with host Nick Cannon on 'the Masked Singer Season 9. (Photo: Fox)
NFL star Damar Hamlin with host Nick Cannon on 'the Masked Singer Season 9. (Photo: Fox)

Not since Kermit the Frog competed as the Snail on Season 5, or returned last season to warble “Rainbow Connection” on a special Muppets-themed extravaganza, had there been such a warm-and-fuzzy, literally fuzzy episode of The Masked Singer as this week’s Sesame Street Night.

Wednesday’s opening number, featuring Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Elmo, Grover, the Count, and even a reluctant Oscar the Grouch singing BTS’s “Dynamite,” was already enough to bring sunny days, sweep the clouds away, and make everything A-OK. But when a special surprise guest, happy and healthy Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, showed up on the block, this episode was definitely brought to you by the letter A… for A-DORABLE.

Hamlin reportedly taped his feel-good cameo in January, mere weeks after he suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed on the field during a Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. On that shocking and terrifying Jan. 2 evening, the 24-year-old NFL star was administered CPR for 10 minutes before being taken off the field in an ambulance, but he made a miraculous recovery and was released from the Buffalo General Medical Center/Gates Vascular Institute just nine days later.

Damar could have celebrated with an “I’m going to Disneyland!” moment, but instead he headed to The Masked Singer — much to the shrieking delight of the studio audience, the judging panel, and most of all, Darma's little brother.

'Sesame Street' star Elmo and 8-year-old Damir Hamlin, brother of the Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin, on 'The Masked Singer.' (Photo: Fox)
'Sesame Street' star Elmo and 8-year-old Damir Hamlin, brother of the Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin, on 'The Masked Singer.' (Photo: Fox)

It was early in Wednesday’s episode, after reigning Season 9 champ the Squirrel had serenaded the Count with “Just the Two of Us,” that a cute 8-year-old boy named Damir came out to provide one of the Squirrel’s weekly clues. Taking a seat on the famous 123 Sesame Street tenement stoop next to Elmo, Damir told the fluffy red icon that he was there “with my brother,” to which the Muppet exclaimed, “Really? Well, let's bring him out!”

“Ladies and gentlemen, Buffalo Bills in the building! Damar Hamlin, the man that brought the whole world together, inspiring us all!” declared host Nick Cannon, as the judges, including guest panelist Jennifer Nettles, jumped out of their chairs at the sight of the grinning Damar walking out holding a football emblazoned with Ken Jeong’s face. Ken seemed the most excited by this unexpected Masked Singer reveal of sorts, shouting, “It's so good to see you! Oh my gosh, I am freaking out! I’m just so glad you're here, but more importantly, I'm just so glad you're healthy. The whole world loves you!”

When Nick asked Damar why he decided to visit The Masked Singer, of all places, the football hero answered, “Mainly because of my brother. You know, that's my world. I put family first. And he loves Sesame Street more than most things. So, we had to make it tonight.”

“Such a beautiful moment,” Nick gushed, speaking for all of America.

The crowd and judges go wild for Damar Hamlin's surprise 'The Masked Singer' Season 9 appearance, taping just weeks after his cardiac arrest. (Photos: Fox)
The crowd and judges go wild for Damar Hamlin's surprise 'The Masked Singer' Season 9 appearance, taping just weeks after his cardiac arrest. (Photos: Fox)

So, the Squirrel got to be part of Masked Singer history by association, but sadly, she wasn’t able to hold onto her reigning queen title for a second week; in fact, she was the first contestant to be eliminated Wednesday, not even making it to the Battle Royale. While she claimed to be a rocker chick at heart (last week, she “tapped into her inner rock star” and sank her bucked rodent teeth into Pink and 3 Doors Down covers), the Squirrel’s Grover Washington Jr./Bill Withers ballad this week was just a bit too laid-back to be truly competitive.

So, the Squirrel was ordered to hightail it outta there, and I guessed correctly last Wednesday — and judge Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg figured out this week — she was revealed to be funny-lady, Rock of Ages actress, former Petalstones alt-rock frontwoman, and Ken's Couple's Retreat co-star, Malin Akerman.

As for the night’s other two contestants, the Jackalope and the Fairy, neither of them covered Oscar the Grouch’s “I Love Trash,” Bert’s “Doin’ the Pigeon,” or Cookie Monster’s “Cookie Disco” (or anything from Sesame Street Fever, disappointingly) on Sesame Street Night. The night’s other reveal, the Jackalope — who turned out to be social media star Lele Pons — puzzlingly sang Shakira’s “Wherever, Whenever,” which had seemingly nothing to do with the week’s theme.

But at least the Fairy paid tribute to bad-boy Oscar the Grouch with Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good,” a performance that Oscar complained was “too good!” and had judge Robin Thicke raving, “Your vocal tone was perfect for that song, so smooth and sultry.” This established the Fairy as Group B’s newly crowned queen and one to beat, so as she flutters to next week's round, it’s time to make some guesses: Who is the Fairy?

A self-described “nepo-fairy” who enterprisingly used to charge the kids in her neighborhood an admission fee to visit her famous father, this magical creature “grew up in these [Sesame] streets” with Brat Pack pals like Sean Penn, Rob Lowe, and Emilio Estevez. However, she “chose a more divergent path, prioritizing my education and traveling the world” before eventually making her way back to “Tinsel Town” to pursue her two loves, singing and acting. Her other clues included a panther, a basketball, a police badge, and the song “Endless Love.” The judges thought this might be Tracee Ellis Ross (not a bad guess), Angelina Jolie (that was Ken’s bad guess, of course), or “nepo-baby” Rashida Jones… but I think this is Holly Robinson Peete.

Besides the fact that Holly can legitimately sing, in the words of the Count, most of the Fairy/Holly clues add up. Holly attended the same Los Angeles high school as Penn, Lowe, and Estevez; she put her acting career on hold to study psychology and French at Sarah Lawrence College and perform music in Paris nightclubs; she’s married to Rodney Peete of the Carolina Panthers; she starred in the police drama 21 Jump Street and the basketball-centric sitcom Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper; and she portrayed “Endless Love” diva Diana Ross in the ABC miniseries The Jacksons: An American Dream. And if you need even more of a connection, Holly is the daughter of late actor Matt Robinson — the original Gordon on Sesame Street — and she made her first TV appearance on Sesame Street herself at age 6!

But whoever the Fairy is, she’s a pro. As Jennifer Nettles, a huge Linda Ronstadt fan, attested, the Fairy bravely “took on" Ronstadt's song “and it sounded amazing… which makes me think you’ve done this before!” So, check out the Fairy on next week’s Country Night (which, for some odd reason, won’t be guest-judged by Nettles), when she attempts to leave two new contestants choking on her pixie dust.

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