Hospitalized Hillis breathing on his own

Arkansas running back Peyton Hillis scores a touchdown during a game against LSU on Friday, Nov. 23, 2007, in Baton Rouge, La.

Former University of Arkansas and NFL running back Peyton Hillis has been breathing on his own since Wednesday and is no longer on a ventilator in a Florida hospital.

Doug Hillis, the former player’s father, texted on Wednesday, “Got off breathing tube, breathing on his own.”

On Friday, Hillis’ girlfriend, the singer and actress Angela Cole, made her first public comments since Hillis was injured while he and another family member rescued younger family members in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Fla., on Jan. 4.

On her Instagram account Cole referred to Hillis as a “hero” and wrote, “So proud of this man and so incredibly grateful for family and this incredible hospital. 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.”

Cole included a picture and video of she and Hillis in her post. The pair, who starred together in the 2021 indie film “The Hunting,” have been dating since some point last year, according to Hillis’ Instagram.

Hillis has been undergoing lung and kidney treatments since the incident, when he ingested sea water and had to be airlifted to a hospital.

A GoFundMe account to help pay for medical expenses has been set up online.

The Conway native starred in the Arkansas backfield in 2004-07 before being a seventh round pick by the Denver Broncos in the 2008 NFL Draft. 

In 81 NFL games with the Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants, Hillis rushed for 2,832 yards, had 134 receptions for 1,050 yards and scored 26 touchdowns.

His best year came with the Browns in 2010 when he recorded 1,177 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 61 passes for 477 yards and 2 touchdowns. That big season propelled Hillis onto the cover of the Madden 2012 video game.