PENSACOLA, Fla. — A former Kansas City Chiefs running back is hospitalized in intensive care after saving his two children in the ocean.
Peyton Hillis remains hospitalized following the accident.
Hillis’ uncle Greg Hillis said the former NFL star is receiving treatment on his lungs and kidneys in a Facebook post.
“I just wanted to let everyone know on Razorback Nation that Peyton is doing better,” Greg Hillis wrote.
“He’s still in intensive care and having some problems with his kidneys and his lungs but doctors say he is improving. I just wanted to head off any rumors that may be started. I’m sure he would want everyone to know that he appreciates all of the prayers being thrown up on his behalf!!!”
Hillis’ kids are also safe.
FOX 24 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, is reporting Hillis and his children were in Pensacola, Florida, at the time of the swimming accident. Hillis jumped into the water and saved his children. He was airlifted to a hospital and remains unconscious.
Hillis is from Arkansas and played football for the Arkansas Razorbacks. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2008. The Kansas City Chiefs then signed Hillis in 2012 as a backup to Jamaal Charles.
Hillis also played for the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the New York Giants before retiring in 2015.
During his brief stint in Kansas City, Hillis continued to capture the attention of NFL fans. But during his near-drowning on Friday — for emergency responders — was just another rescue.
“It wasn’t actually until this morning that Mr. Hillis’s name was brought up. As a former sports reporter myself here locally in Pensacola, I’m very familiar with who Mr. Hillis is,” said Davis Wood, spokesman for Escambia County, Florida, Pubic Safety.
Escambia County Public Safety said rip currents could be to blame, with two adults needing medical attention following the rescue of the two children.
Family confirmed Hillis was flown by helicopter to the hospital. His uncle shared: “He’s still in intensive care and having some problems with his kidneys and his lungs but the doctors say he is improving.”
The children did not require any medical attention. The other adult also was taken to the hospital but went by ambulance, not by helicopter.
The story brings to mind the death of Chiefs running back Joe Delaney who drowned June 29, 1983, while trying to rescue three children from a pond in Monroe, Louisiana.
Since his death, the YMCA of Greater Kansas City in 2022 launched the “Joe Delaney Learn to Swim Program,“ which is focused on equity in water safety programs.
With Peyton Hillis, the hope for recovery is strong.
“My understanding of Peyton Hillis is that he is a wonderful person, and he’s a man who looks out for his family, his friends, and certainly was beloved by the city of Cleveland, especially during his breakout year where he ended up on the cover of Madden football,” Davis said.