Family says hospitalized Hillis making progress

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Arkansas running back Peyton Hillis scores a touchdown during a game against LSU on Friday, Nov. 23, 2007, in Baton Rouge, La.
( Jeff Mitchell)
Arkansas running back Peyton Hillis scores a touchdown during a game against LSU on Friday, Nov. 23, 2007, in Baton Rouge, La.

FAYETTEVILLE — Former University of Arkansas and NFL standout running back Peyton Hillis remained sedated in a Florida hospital on Tuesday, but he is continuing to make progress, according to family members.

Hillis, 36, has spent the past week in the intensive care unit of an Escambia County, Fla., hospital after requiring emergency medical attention and an airlift. Hillis and another family member were involved in a water rescue of younger family members last Wednesday in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Fla.

Doctors are in the process of trying to wean Hillis off of a ventilator, according to communications from family members sent via text, after he swallowed and inhaled sea water during the rescue.

Doug Hillis, the player’s father, said via text that Tuesday was a good day as doctors reduced his medication to see how he responds as they work toward removing the ventilator tube. Hillis’ lungs have shown improvement the last couple of days, according to the family.

Hillis is still undergoing dialysis, which is helping remove toxins, after the initial health concerns revolved around his lungs and kidneys.

Marvin Caston, a former Razorback and administrator in the UA athletic department and Razorback Foundation, has stayed in communication with family members since the incident.

“Every day is just keep praying for him, and prayers are needed, and they’re praying that every day he makes progress and gets a little better,” Caston said Tuesday regarding wishes the family wants to pass along. “They appreciate all the support from Razorback Nation that they’re pouring out for Peyton and to keep them coming.

“They’re hoping that every day is better than the day before.”

Hillis, of Conway, was part of one of the best backfields in college football history at Arkansas in the mid-2000s along with Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, with all three players taken in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Hillis rushed for 959 yards and 12 touchdowns and had 118 catches for 1,195 yards while playing for the Razorbacks from 2004-07.

A seventh-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 2008, Hillis played seven seasons with the Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants. He amassed 2,832 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns and 134 receptions for 1,050 yards and 3 touchdowns while playing in 81 NFL games.

In 2010, Hillis had 270 carries for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns and 61 catches for 477 yards and 2 touchdowns for the Browns, leading to his making the cover of the “Madden NFL” 2012 video game.

Media outlets from around the United States and other countries have carried news stories regarding Hillis’ heroic actions and hospitalization since last week.


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