Former NFL Star Ronnie Hillman Dead at 31 After Cancer Battle

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Former NFL running back Ronnie Hillman, who was part of the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl-winning team, died on Dec. 21 after a battle with a rare form of cancer. Look back at his life and legacy.

In Memoriam: Fallen Stars of 2022

The sports world has lost one of its stars. 

Former Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman died on Dec. 21 following a battle with cancer, his family has confirmed. He was 31 years old. 

“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved son, brother & father, Ronnie K Hillman Jr,” the family wrote in a post shared to Hillman’s official Instagram account. “Ronnie quietly and peacefully transitioned today in the company of his family and close friends. We as the family, appreciate the prayers and kind words that have already been expressed. We ask that you would give us time to process our feelings as we prepare to lay our precious RJ to rest.”

In a separate statement hours before the former NFL player’s passing, his family revealed that Hillman had been diagnosed with renal medullary carcinoma, “a rare but highly aggressive neoplasm form of cancer that primarily affects young African Americans with sickle cell trait,” in August and that the treatment he’d received had been unsuccessful.

Alongside a photo of the running back laying on the field surrounded by confetti after the Denver Broncos’ 2016 Super Bowl win, they added that he was in hospice care, where he was “kept comfortable and out of pain.”

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Hillman was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2012 and played for them until 2016. He was a part of both their 2013 and 2015 AFC Championship teams and helped the team secure their Super Bowl 50 victory.

“We are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of former Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman,” the Broncos said in a statement shared to social media. “A key contributor during 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.”

The organization described Hillman as “soft-spoken with a warm smile and quiet intensity,” noting he’d grown into “a dynamic and well-respected teammate” during his time with the Broncos. 

“Ronnie will be fondly remembered by our organization,” the team continued, “which extends its heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the Hillman family during this difficult time.”

After his run with the Broncos, Hillman played for the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Chargers. According to the NFL, he signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2017 but never played for the team.

Prior to his time in the NFL, Hillman played football at San Diego State. Originally from Long Beach, Calif., he also took part in Snoop Dogg‘s Youth Football League as a kid.

After hearing of the athlete’s passing, the rapper paid tribute on social media. “Heaven gained an angel today,” he wrote underneath the post Hillman’s family shared. “Thank u for being an example to the youth in my league and around the world.”

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