The hits keep coming for an NFL community that’s already experienced tremendous loss in 2022. This time, it’s the death of former Denver Broncos star running back Ronnie Hillman, who succumbed to cancer on Wednesday at 31, an age when some other NFL stars are still on the field.
Hillman was drafted by the Broncos in 2012 at age 20, right out of San Diego State University where he put up eye-popping numbers—3,243 yards and 36 touchdowns—in only his two seasons there. He was barely old enough to legally drink when he took his first NFL snap, but his youth didn’t prove to be a limitation in the grown-man world of professional football. He put up his best season in 2015 when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50, posting a team-high 863 rushing yards, 24 catches out of the backfield and seven touchdowns.
At the time it seemed like Hillman’s rise was only beginning, but as it turns out, that would be his penultimate season on the gridiron. Hillman would only play in eight games in 2016 for the Minnesota Vikings and the then-San Diego Chargers.
CBS Sports reported that Hillman’s was diagnosed with a rare cancer called renal medullary carcinoma just this past August; the disease causes sickling of the red blood cells and attacks the kidneys. Earlier this week, his former Broncos teammate Orlando Franklin took to Twitter asking for prayers for his friend.
The list of current and former NFL players who’ve passed away in 2022 is long, ranging from Hall of Famer Franco Harris, who died Wednesday morning at age 72, to former Steelers and Washington Commanders quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who was killed in a tragic accident in April at age 24.