“You all worked like a perfected machine with each and every one of you so kind, attentive, calming and caring. … You not only saved Peyton’s life, you made it a priority to make sure that his family and I were okay amidst your busy schedules. You all were so calming, answered every question numerous times kindly … and heck, even took care of me and made sure I was okay every night: got me hot tea for my throat, made sure I was sleeping and eating, gave me a friend to confide in … I mean, I am just in AWE.”
Hillis, who turned 37 Saturday reportedly was involved in a water rescue Jan. 4 off the Pensacola coast. Hillis and his sister, Hayley Davis, according to Escambia County emergency services, were struggling in the water with two children.
“Our lives were rocked,” Hayley wrote Friday on Facebook, saying that she suddenly found they were all yards from shore. “I’ll never forget the relief I felt when I saw my mama coming towards me and helping me out of the water. She literally had to pull me by my hair because I couldn’t lift my arm up to her but, man, it was the best hair pull of my life!!!! … I remember seeing Peyt laid out on the sand unable to move and my mom having to run back and forth between us as the medics helped each of us. I just kept praying that Peyt would be okay and I’m so happy to say Yahweh provided.”
Hillis was taken by helicopter to the hospital and had been on a ventilator. Cole wrote in a Jan. 11 Instagram post that he’d since been taken off it, and was “on the road to recovery.”
“A hero. So proud of this man and so incredibly grateful for family and this incredible hospital,” Cole wrote. “Peyton is off the ventilator and is on the road to recovery. Please continue to pray for he’s still got a ways ahead of him, but thank you for all of your prayers and love and support thus far. It truly makes all the difference. Today was a good day.”
Greg Hillis, who identified himself on Facebook as Peyton’s uncle, told KNWA that the former player’s two children, whom Peyton shares with his ex-wife, Amanda, were “physically unhurt.”
Peyton Hillis was a seventh-round draft pick by the Denver Broncos in 2008 and also played for the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants, retiring after the 2014 season. He rushed for 2,832 yards and caught 134 passes for 1,050 yards over a career in which he scored 26 total touchdowns. He rushed for a career-high 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010, and was chosen to be on the cover of the “Madden NFL” video game the following year.
Members of the NFL community, such as ESPN’s Ryan Clark, praised Hillis as a “hero.” “Saving his kids from drowning is something fathers get,” Clark tweeted. “He risked his life for his babies. Man I pray he finds a way back to his family. He deserves to see them grow.” Robert Griffin III praised Hillis in a tweet as “a dang super hero. He saved his kids from drowning in the ocean while putting his own life in danger for the sake of his family.”