BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A friend who rescued Indiana wide receiver Isaac Griffith as he was drowning at a Florida beach said Tuesday that he just acted on instinct when the pair and two other friends got caught in a rip current.
"Me and Isaac got pulled farther out than everyone else, so we were having trouble," Mitch McCune said in a telephone interview. "He was drowning and I grabbed him and got him to shore. It was tough."
He said once he was able to stand, another friend, safety Ty Smith, helped pull Griffith to shore. McCune wasn't sure how far from shore the rip current had taken them, but said they were out past the buoys.
McCune performed CPR on Siesta Beach until Sarasota County Sheriff's Department officers and emergency units arrived.
Griffith remained in critical but stable condition early Tuesday night with doctors saying he has been showing "small but incremental improvements," spokeswoman Kim Savage said in a statement released through Indiana.
Griffith was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where Savage said his family was by Griffith's side. Savage said the family "was deeply grateful for the prayers and support from friends and followers" but that it had requested privacy.
"We deeply appreciate the prayers and outpouring of support coming to us through tweets, calls and messages, both from Florida and Indiana," said Isaac's parents, Shannon and Kim Griffith, in the statement. "We are seeing positive signs throughout the day and winning small battles that give us hope."
McCune, an Indiana student who is studying to be an athletic trainer, said he had visited Griffith several times but didn't want to say much about Griffith's condition at the request of Griffith's family.
"He's getting better, but he has a lot of little battles and he's doing it hour by hour," he said.
Griffith's father, the football coach at Division III Manchester University, said via Twitter that his son was on a ventilator.
"My wife, Kim, and I have been at Isaac's bedside since 2 AM we are encouraged with his progress in ICU but we have small battles to face and are asking for your thoughts and prayers," Shannon Griffith said early Tuesday morning in a series of tweets after flying to Sarasota to be by his son's bedside. "His vitals are stable but we still need for continue prayer for his lungs."
McCune also asked Hoosiers fans to pray for Griffith.
"Pray for his lungs and his little battles and that he will come out strong and OK," he said. "Just keep thinking positive thoughts."
The sheriff's department said Griffith was drinking in a hotel room with McCune, Smith and wide receiver Nick Stoner when the four decided to go swimming. McCune denied they had been drinking.
"I don't know how that started," he said.
McCune described Griffith as non-responsive when he pulled him out. The sheriff's report said Griffith's CT scans were normal and spokeswoman Wendy Rose said Tuesday that his "signs are positive."
Stoner, 21, is from the Indianapolis suburb of Greenwood. Smith, 19, is a redshirt freshman from Bloomington.
Griffith played at Homestead High School near Fort Wayne. His father, Shannon Griffith, is football coach at Manchester University in northeastern Indiana.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.