Former Arkansas and NFL running back Peyton Hillis is conscious and no longer relying on a ventilator, according to an Instagram post from his girlfriend, Angela Cole. The positive update comes after Hillis reportedly rescued family members during a swimming accident in Pensacola, Florida, on Jan. 4.
“Peyton is off the ventilator and is on the way to recovery. Please continue to pray,” Cole wrote. “He’s still got a ways ahead of him.”
According to Escambia County Fire Rescue, via WKRG, multiple swimmers required water rescue in the incident and Alyssa Orange of KNWA confirmed that Hillis was helicoptered to the hospital.
A day after the accident, Greg Hillis, who KNWA identified as his uncle, wrote in a Facebook post that the former Razorback was "having some problems with his kidneys and his lungs” but “improving.”
On Jan. 6, Hillis’ most notable former teams sent well wishes and praise. “Thinking about our man,” Arkansas football wrote on Twitter. “Encouraged to learn he's doing better after his heroic act saving his family.” The Cleveland Browns quoted the tweet with support.
Other NFL figures took to Twitter to extend positive messages to Hillis, including Indianapolis Colts team owner Jim Irsay and ESPN analyst Ryan Clark. "Man I pray he finds a a way back to his family. He deserves to see them grow," Clark wrote.
Hillis was a seventh-round draft pick of the Broncos in 2008. After two years in Denver, he was traded to Cleveland, where he had a breakout season two years later. He recorded 1,177 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, 477 receiving yards and 2 receiving touchdowns. That showing won him the vote for the cover athlete of "Madden NFL 12."
He played for four teams throughout his NFL career and retired in 2015 at the recommendation of his doctors after of his last two seasons ended with concussions.