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Former NFL player in critical condition after reportedly saving his children from drowning

“He risked his life for his babies. I pray he finds a way back to his family. He deserves to see them grow."

A former NFL player remains in critical condition in a Florida hospital after saving his own children from drowning, NBC Sports reports.

On Jan. 4, Peyton Hillis, 36, a former running back in the NFL who played for multiple teams including the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns, was airlifted to a nearby hospital in Pensacola, Florida after he "went into the water to save his children from drowning," according to KNWA in Arkansas.

A relative of Hillis told the local television news station that Hillis arrived to the hospital unconscious and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. The same relative told KNWA the children were "physically unhurt."

Hillis shares a son and a daughter with his ex-wife, Amanda Hillis.

In 2022, Hillis posted a video to Instagram showing him playing a video game with his son.

"You can take the man out of the game… but you can’t take the game out of the man," Hillis wrote. "Grateful to know I can still kick somebody’s a** in football… even if it is my 9-year-old son."

Greg Hillis, who identified himself as Peyton's uncle on Facebook, shared an update on Hillis's condition on Jan. 6.

"I just wanted to let everyone know on Razorback Nation that Peyton is doing better," he wrote. "He’s still in intensive care and having some problems with his kidneys and his lungs but the doctors say he is improving."

Greg Hillis added that he's sure Hillis "would want everyone to know that he appreciates all of the prayers being thrown up on his behalf."

Retired football player and NFL media analyst Ryan Clark praised Hillis for being 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."

According to a Pensacola-area fire and rescue department report obtained by KNWA, authorities learned of a distressed swimmer just before noon. Two adults were taken to a local area hospital, including one who was transported via helicopter.

On Jan. 8, KNWA reported that while Hillis had "made minor improvement" while hospitalized, his family was asking for more prayers as "additional issues with his kidneys" are a cause for concern.

"Peyton is battling and definitely needs as many prayers as he can get," KNWA's Otis Kirk reported.

Hillis played for four NFL teams from 2008 to 2014, according to ESPN. During his time with the Cleveland Browns in 2010, he ran for 1,177 yards on 270 carries and scored 11 touchdowns.  Originally drafted by the Denver Broncos in the seventh round, Willis ended his NFL career with the New York Giants.

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