Former football player Ronnie Hillman has died following a battle with cancer. He was 31.
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved son, brother & father, Ronnie K. Hillman Jr.,” the former Denver Broncos athlete’s family wrote in a Wednesday, December 21, Instagram statement, shared via Hillman’s account. “Ronnie quietly and peacefully transitioned today in the company of his family and close friends.”
Their statement continued: “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.”
The running back, who was drafted by the Broncos in 2012, had been diagnosed with Renal Medullary Carcinoma (RMC) in August. According to the National Institute of Health, RMC is an aggressive form of non-clear cell kidney cancer that typically affects young adults. It is also commonly associated 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,” Hillman’s family wrote in an earlier statement on Wednesday. “As a family, we hope beyond hope, and we have faith that can move mountains. 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.”
Following Hillman’s death, his former Broncos teammates paid tribute.
“We are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of former Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman,” a statement shared via the NFL team’s Twitter read on Thursday, December 22. “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 season.”
The message continued: “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 time.”
After the California native was drafted by the Broncos during the 2012 NFL draft, he played with the team until his 2016 release. Hillman later played with the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Chargers before signing with the Dallas Cowboys ahead of the 2017 season. He was released by the Cowboys shortly after signing with the team.