Hillman was 31 years old.
“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 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. 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. Ronnie will be fondly remembered by our organization, which extends its heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the Hillman family during this difficult time.”
Frank Mazzotta, Hillman’s coach at La Habra High in California, posted a remembrance on Twitter.
Tonight we lost a great Highlander, such a pleasure to coach. So many great memories of you. You could light up the room with your bright smile. As incredible as you were on the field you were even better off it. Loved by so many, too young. Rest in paradise next to Big Ronnie! pic.twitter.com/3jGAE8ANIK
— Coach Mazzotta LH FB (@LHHighlanders) December 22, 2022
Former Broncos teammate Omar Bolden also posted his thoughts on Hillman’s death:
Drafted by Denver at the age of 20 in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft after a standout career at San Diego State, Hillman spent four of his five NFL seasons with the Broncos. He was a backup over his first two years before earning his first start in 2014, rushing for 100 yards against the New York Jets.
In 2015, Hillman became the team’s starter again after rushing for 111 yards in a Week 6 win over the Cleveland Browns. He had four 100-yard games over the course of the regular season and finished with a career-high 863 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. In Super Bowl 50, Hillman had only five carries for zero yards as the Broncos gave the majority of their carries to C.J. Anderson.
A free agent after the Super Bowl, Hillman re-signed with the Broncos but was released in final roster cuts days before the 2016 regular season began. The Minnesota Vikings signed Hillman early in the season after Adrian Peterson suffered a knee injury, but he rushed for only 50 yards in five games before the Vikings released him. The San Diego Chargers picked him up off waivers, and Hillman rushed for 81 yards over the final three games of his NFL career.