ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Former Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman, who played on two Super Bowl teams, including the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 winner, has died after a bout with cancer, his family said Thursday. He was 31.
Hillman’s family posted on his Instagram account Wednesday that he was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer called renal medullary carcinoma and was under hospice care. The family later posted that he died surrounded by family and close friends.
Former teammates such as Derek Wolfe and Orlando Franklin had expressed how dire Hillman’s health was in recent days. Franklin took to social media to ask “please pray for Ronnie Hillman … this ain’t fair, please god, please.”
“We are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of former Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman,” the Broncos said in a statement. “A key contributor to the winningest four-year period in franchise history, Ronnie was part of two Super Bowl teams and led the Broncos in rushing during our Super Bowl 50 championship season. Soft-spoken with a warm smile and quiet intensity, Ronnie was drafted by the Broncos in 2012 and grew into a dynamic player and well-respected teammate. He will be fondly remembered by our organization, which extends its heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the Hillman family during this difficult time.”
Hillman was a third-round pick by the Broncos in the 2012 NFL draft, one of the youngest players selected in recent drafts. He was just 20 years old when the Broncos chose him and didn’t turn 21 until September of his rookie year.
He was one of two 20-year-olds the Broncos selected in that draft class; quarterback Brock Osweiler was the other.
Hillman finished his two seasons at San Diego State with back-to-back 1,500-yard rushing seasons — 1,532 yards as a freshman, 1,711 yards as a sophomore — with 17 and 19 rushing touchdowns, respectively. He is fifth on the school’s all-time rushing list.
Hillman joined the Broncos in the team’s first draft class after it had signed Peyton Manning. He rushed for 218 yards in limited duty in 2013 when the Broncos set the league’s single-season scoring record with 606 points and two years later led the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 team in rushing (863 yards) and touchdowns, with seven, during the regular season.
Hillman also had a career-best 24 receptions that season.
He played five games for the Minnesota Vikings and three games for the Chargers in 2016, his final season in which he appeared in any regular-season games.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.