ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Ronnie Hillman, the leading rushing on the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 team, died Wednesday, his family announced on Instagram.
Hillman was 31 and had been in hospice in the Atlanta area with a rare form of cancer.
He is the second offensive starter from the Broncos’ 2013 and 2015 Super Bowl teams who has died in the past year. Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos’ leading receiver on both Super Bowl teams, passed away a year ago December in Georgia from complications of seizures.
“Ronnie was a helluva dude,’’ said C.J. Anderson, Hillman’s running back mate from 2013-2016. “Me and Ronnie had a lot of good stories together. We talked a month ago on Thanksgiving. It’s devastating. It’s tough hearing the news especially when he has a son. He won’t be able to watch his son grow up.
“But as far as a teammate and a football player he was a helluva player, helluva teammate. Being in the same room, competing with each other, sharing carries with each other, we grow a bond that carried off the field and even after we were done playing. Definitely very sad to hear.”
Hillman was just 20 years old when the Broncos drafted him in the third round out of San Diego State in 2012. He played four seasons with the Broncos – all during the Peyton Manning era from 2012-15. Almost painfully shy as a rookie, Hillman began to mature as a young man and gradually become more productive as his career carried on.
In his fourth season of 2015, he started the final 10 games of the Broncos’ 12-4 season, and first two games in the postseason. He rushed for 863 yards and 7 touchdowns that year. Although he started the postseason games against Pittsburgh and New England, Hillman was pushed to a secondary role behind Anderson, who rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos’ 24-10 Super Bowl win against Carolina.
The Broncos opted not to re-sign Hillman after he became eligible for free agency after the 2015 season. He played one more year, splitting time with the Vikings and his hometown Chargers.
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