HomeSportsNFLEmmitt Smith Visits Peyton Hillis After Heroic Act Landed former NFL star in ICU

Emmitt Smith Visits Peyton Hillis After Heroic Act Landed former NFL star in ICU

by Suzanne Halliburton
emmitt smith visited peyton hillis in pensacola hospital
Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

This is the best kind of photo. Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith dropped by a Florida hospital to see Peyton Hillis, the hero dad and former NFL running back.

Hillis nearly lost his life as he tried to rescue his two young children earlier this month. The dad, his son and daughter were having a fun afternoon at Pensacola Beach, Fla. But the kids and another adult got caught in a rip tide. More details later, but let’s look at the cool photo of Emmitt Smith and a smiling Peyton Hillis.

Smith shared a photo of himself sitting at Hillis’ bedside. Hillis looks happy and healthy, although he still is in the hospital. Smith captioned the photo: “opportunity to visit a recovering hero this week, Peyton Hillis. Stay strong Peyton! Praying for you, your family and wishing you a speedy recovery.”

It’s unclear how well Peyton Hillis and Emmitt Smith know each other. They both were running backs in the NFL. The 53-year-old Smith left the league after the 2002 season as the all-time leading rusher. The tailback grew up in Pensacola and starred at the University of Florida. Although he lives in Dallas, Smith still does business in his hometown. Meanwhile, Hillis grew up in Arkansas. He was 16 when Smith retired. Like Smith, Hillis stayed home to attend the big state school. Hillis played for the Arkansas Razorbacks. He joined the league in 2008.

Hillis played fullback, an often thankless and decidedly non-glamorous position. However, Hillis enjoyed some notoriety. In 2010, while playing for the Cleveland Browns, he gained more than 1,000 yards. And by 2011, Hillis beat out Michael Vick to appear on the cover of Madden NFL 12 video game.

He retired following the 2014 season, with his doctors suggesting he quit the game because of previous concussions he’d suffered. But he kept connections to football. Last fall, he was a volunteer coach for his son’s youth team.

On Jan. 4, Hillis and his kids were having some fun on Pensacola Beach. But when he saw his kids in danger, he risked his life to save them. Lifeguards and first responders then rushed to save Hillis. They tended to him on the beach. A helicopter landed nearby on a street adjacent to the beach. Hillis then was air lifted to a local hospital. For days, he was in critical condition in ICU. He was on a respirator, with doctors concerned about his lungs and kidneys.

Finally, Hillis’ girlfriend had good news to share. Angela Cole, posting on Instagram, wrote that Hillis was off the ventilator and on the road to recovery.

And now, fans can see Peyton Willis looking absolutely thrilled to see someone like Emmitt Smith walking into his hospital room and calling him a hero. Miracles are the best sort of inspiration.