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Ex-NFL RB Peyton Hillis hospitalized after saving kids in ocean

Jan 1, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; A NFL shield logo on the field  at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Former NFL running back Peyton Hillis remained hospitalized Friday after helping to save two children from drowning at a Pensacola, Fla., beach.

Marvin Caston, who played football at Arkansas and is well-connected to the football program, confirmed to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Hillis went into ocean waters on Wednesday to save one of his children and another family member from drowning.

“One of Peyton’s children and the child of one of his other relatives went out too far in the ocean, and Peyton and another relative went out to save them, which they did,” Caston told the newspaper. “But Peyton got a lot of salt water in his lungs and nearly drowned.

“[A Hillis family member] said they’ve been working at the hospital to get all the salt water pumped out of his lungs and to get his kidney function restored.”

KNWA-TV FOX24 in Arkansas reported Thursday night that Hillis, 36, was unconscious and on a ventilator. Greg Hillis, identified by Arkansas media as Peyton’s uncle, posted to Facebook that “Peyton is doing better. He’s still in intensive care and having some problems with his kidneys and his lungs but the doctors say he is improving.”

The Arkansas football program sent well-wishes to Hillis via Twitter on Friday.

“Thinking about our man @thepeytonhillis,” the post read. “Encouraged to learn he’s doing better after his heroic act saving his family.”

The Pensacola News Journal reported that first responders in Escambia County, Fla., performed a water rescue just before noon Wednesday at Pensacola Beach. In all, four swimmers who were in distress were rescued, with two adults taken to the hospital, one via helicopter.

Multiple reports Friday said the children were safe and that the patient transported via helicopter was Hillis.

Hillis played fullback at Arkansas from 2004-07 and was drafted in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos. He played seven seasons with the Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants.

His best NFL season came in 2010 with the Browns, when he ran for 1,177 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He added 477 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

In his career, he carried the ball 696 times for 2,832 yards and 23 touchdowns in 81 games (34 starts). He caught 134 passes for 1,050 yards and three more scores.

–Field Level Media