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Image Credit: Shane Roper/CSM/Shutterstock

  • Ronnie was a former running back with the Denver Broncos.
  • He won the 2016 Super Bowl alongside Peyton Manning.
  • He died from a rare cancer called renal medullary carcinoma on Wednesday.

Ronnie Hillman sadly died after battling cancer at 31 years old on December 22. His passing was announced on Wednesday after it was reported that he was in hospice care, via TMZ. Ronnie’s family shared that he passed in a statement to the outlet. “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved son, brother & father, Ronnie K Hillman Jr.,” they said. “Ronnie quietly and peacefully transitioned today in the company of his family and close friends.”

Fans of the former Denver Broncos running back will always remember his dramatic win at Super Bowl 50 in February of 2016.  The Compton, California native’s highly successful athletic career began on the San Diego State Aztecs football team and led him to the NFL. The Broncos also released a statement mourning his passing. “We are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of former Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman,” the team said on Twitter. “He will be fondly remembered by our organization, which extends its heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the Hillman family during this difficult time.”

Here’s what to know about Ronnie and his career.

1. He had a remarkable career.

Ronnie Hillman
Ronnie Hillman (Shane Roper/CSM/Shutterstock)

Ronnie had been a star from the beginning of his career. In 2012, he was a third-round pick and of course, went on to a high-profile stint as a running back for the Denver Broncos, where he played 48 games with the team. In February of 2016, he and the Broncos trounced the Carolina Panthers at Super Bowl 50, and he subsequently left the team in September of that year. Ronnie went on to play for the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys, but his big win alongside NFL legend Peyton Manning remains his defining career moment.

2. He’s beloved by his teammates.

According to TMZ, Ronnie’s former teammates have been taking to social media to share best wishes for him as he was in hospice. “Please pray for Ronnie Hillman he’s in hospice and not doing well,” wrote Orlando Franklin, who played with Ronnie for the Broncos, via Twitter on December 20, 2022. Former teammate Derek Wolfe reportedly told 104.3 The Fan on Tuesday, Dec 21, that it’s “not looking good.” “He has pneumonia and I’m putting it out there just to send positive vibes his way,” Derek said of his pal, adding that he is an “an all-around great dude.” Orlando in particular seemed to be distressed, tweeting several times on Dec 20. “Lord please have mercy, please,” he wrote.

3. He was a high school athletic star.

According to his Wikipedia page, Ronnie emerged as an athletic force back in high school. At La Habra High School, he set himself apart early on by lettering in track, football, and basketball. He then went on to play for the San Diego State Aztecs before moving on to pro football.

4. He comes from a family of faith.

Ronnie Hillman
Ronnie Hillman (AP/Shutterstock)

As Ronnie fought the rare cancer, on December 21 that his family released a hopeful statement. “As a family, we hope beyond hope, and we have faith that can move mountains,” the family wrote via Instagram, in part. “We also understand that God’s will is not always ours; therefore, we as a family subject ourselves to the will of our Almighty God. We need your prayers, but we also need your understanding and respect for Ronnie and our family’s privacy at this time.” 

5. He was diagnosed in August.

According to the family’s statement, the NFL great has been dealing with the illness for months and was diagnosed back in August. He’s currently in hospice and being kept “out of pain.” “Though this message is difficult to share, we feel it is necessary,” they wrote. “August of this year, Ronnie was diagnosed with Renal Medullary Carcinoma. Renal Medullary Carcinoma (RMC) is a rare but highly aggressive neoplasm form of cancer that primarily affects young African Americans with sickle cell trait. Unfortunately treatment has not been successful and our beloved RJ is currently under Hospice Care where he is being kept comfortable and out of pain.”

Audrey Rock

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