Ronnie Hillman, a former running back for the Denver Broncos who was a key part of the team that won Super Bowl 50, died in Atlanta on Wednesday night at the age of 31. His family said in a statement on social media that he had died of cancer.
Hillman was told in August that he had renal medullary carcinoma by his family. The cancer is, “a rare but highly aggressive neoplasm form of cancer that primarily affects young African Americans with sickle cell trait,” the family wrote. The family said that Hillman died “quietly and at peace.”
“We as the family appreciate the prayers and kind words that have already been expressed,” the family wrote. “We ask that you would give us time to process our feelings as we prepare to lay our precious RJ to rest.”
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Hillman, who was born in Compton, California, ran for 3,243 yards and 36 touchdowns in two seasons at San Diego State University before the Broncos picked him in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
In his first three years as a pro, Hillman had a total of 982 yards and five touchdowns. In 2015, he really came into his own and helped Denver get to the Super Bowl. In the regular season of that year, he ran for 863 yards and seven touchdowns.
He also played in all three of the Broncos’ playoff games, including their 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl. In early October 2015, he broke out with a 72-yard touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings.
The family of former Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman announced in an Instagram post to Hillman’s account that the 31-year-old passed away Wednesday after battling a rare form of cancer. Hillman was a member of the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 championship team. Terribly sad news. pic.twitter.com/e78BvwllXd
— Nick Kosmider (@NickKosmider) December 22, 2022
At the time, it was the fourth-longest touchdown run in franchise history. Soon after that, he got the starting job and led the team in the last 10 games of the season.
After four seasons with the Broncos, he split 2016 between the Vikings, the San Diego Chargers, and the Dallas Cowboys. Hillman’s NFL career was over after he ran for 1,976 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.
Hillman is in the 2020 class of the San Diego State Athletics Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the hall of fame last year.
Sad news: Former #Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman has passed away at age 31 from cancer. RIP
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 22, 2022
Former teammates of Hillman’s like offensive lineman Orlando Franklin and defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, said earlier this week that they knew Hillman had been moved to hospice care and was fighting for his life.
Wolfe called Hillman, “A great football player, great person, great teammate. Just an all-around great dude.”
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