“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved son, brother & father, Ronnie K Hillman Jr,” the statement began.
“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.”
The news of his death comes hours after the family made a separate Instagram post revealing the athlete had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and was fighting for his life.
“Though this message is difficult to share, we feel it is necessary. 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,” the upload explained.
According to the National Library of Medicine, treatment options for RMC are limited and the prognosis is extremely poor, with a mean survival of less than a year in most cases.
According to ESPN, Hillman was a third-round pick by the Broncos in the 2012 NFL draft after two seasons at San Diego State. At the time, he was one of the youngest players selected in recent drafts at just 20 years old.
He continued to play with the Broncos through historic seasons, including 2013 when the team set the league’s single-season scoring record with 606 points. Two years later, the Broncos won the Super Bowl, with Hillman Jr. earning a career-best 24 receptions that season.
Hillman later played for the Minnesota Vikings, and San Diego Chargers, and was signed by the Dallas Cowboys in 2017 before being released.
“We are deeply saddened by the untimely passing of former Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman. 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,” the Broncos said in a statement.
“He will be fondly remembered by our organization, which extends its heartfelt sympathies and condolences to the Hillman family during this difficult time.”
Hillman Jr. is remembered by friends, family, fans, and fellow athletes in online tributes posted below. VIBE sends our deepest condolences to the Hillman family and all those affected by this loss.