Ronnie Hillman was a third-round pick by the Denver Broncos in the 2012 NFL Draft. The San Diego State running back was an electrifying player in college and reminded many in the scouting community of Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. Hillman will now get to take handoffs from new Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, and may have a bigger role in the offense than some people think. Our very own Cecil Lammey had a chance to sit down and talk with Hillman after a recent Broncos practice.
Cecil Lammey: Ronnie, first question, after rookie minicamp how are you feeling at Offseason Training Activities (OTAs) this offseason?
Ronnie Hillman: Just getting used to it, gotta learn the calls and everything. I've got to get in the books and take it one day at a time.
CL: How does it feel to have a guy like Peyton Manning leading the way at quarterback?
RH: As a rookie it's a big honor to have a guy like Peyton Manning to learn from. It's been very helpful for me.
CL: Does it feel like a dream come true?
RH: Yeah, you know I think I was like seven years old when he first came into the league. It's kind of crazy to think I'm his teammate now (laughs). It's pretty cool.
CL: I saw you returning some punts in practice, is that going to be part of your role here in Denver?
RH: I think I'm just going around to all the special teams spots to see what I can do and what I can't do. Whatever they need me to do I'm going to do it.
CL: Some believe the Broncos want to use you like the Saints use Darren Sproles. What do you think of that type of role?
RH: I think I'm more balanced than scat and can run between the tackles, but if that's what they want then I'll do it. Whatever it takes to help the team I'm going to do. If they want me to be Sproles then that's what I'll do. If they want me to carry the rock, I'll carry it.
CL: Is your head swimming now with everything you have to learn?
RH: Just a little bit, not too much. I'm starting to settle down a lot more; it's been easier now than it was the first couple of days.
CL: The language of the offense, is that's what has been easier for you?
RH: Yeah, the language of the protections really messed me up in the beginning but now I'm getting used to it.
CL: Pass protection very important when you're talking about protecting Peyton Manning!
RH: Oh yeah, I already know it's a lot of pressure. So now I've got to get into my books, know the language and the schemes to make sure I'm right with it.
CL: Is it cool learning your playbook on an iPad?
RH: (laughs) Oh yeah, it's definitely cool. It's better than running around with a big old book (laughs), it's really helpful.
CL: Sum up your career at San Diego State.
RH: Hmm, how about short and lovely? (laughs) It was real fun, especially when you had guys like Vincent (Brown), Demarco (Sampson), and Ryan (Lindley). They made the game fun, and we're real tight on and off the field. I loved playing there. It was a nice city, great community, great fans, it was a great experience.
CL: Did those guys, Vincent and Demarco, tell you what to expect at the pro level?
RH: Yeah, VB just said to go out there and grind. He also said there ain't no friends out here, just work hard, show the coaches what you can do, and earn your spot.
CL: How is it going to feel to be able to play Madden 2013 and you'll be in the game as a member of the Denver Broncos?
RH: Oh wow man, it's real cool. Every kid has a dream of being in a video game. Now that I've accomplished that I just need to make sure I'm pretty good (laughs).
CL: You've gotta check your speed rating right?
RH: Oh yeah! (laughs) I've gotta do what I do out here to make sure I'm a good player in the game!
CL: Before the 2012 NFL Draft several scouts, general managers, and coaches I talked to compared your skill set to that of the Eagles' LeSean McCoy. I interviewed you after you were picked by the Broncos, and you compared yourself to McCoy as well. Tell us why you feel that comparison is accurate?
RH: I love McCoy, he can do it all. He can run, catch, run routes, make big plays. He's very agile, and quick in and out of his cuts. It pretty much sums up what I feel I can do on the football field.
CL: Are there any coaches that really helped you get to where you are today?
RH: Oh, all my coaches from high school on. Back in high school they really helped me as a receiver, taught me how to catch passes correctly. I worked a lot as a receiver back then and their help makes me a more complete running back today.
CL: Before high school, when you played Pop Warner, your coach was Snoop Dogg. What was that experience like?
RH: It was pretty cool to travel and play all over the country. That league and that team was full of all stars, and playing alongside them just helped me get better. It challenged me to be a better player, and I'm the type of guy who loves challenges.
CL: Why do you love the game of football?
RH: Because it's the only sport where you can hit someone and not get in trouble for it! (laughs)
CL: When was the first time that you felt you could take your game to the pro level?
RH: I would have to say it was my sophomore year in high school where I had six touchdowns in one game. I was like "yeah, I think this is for me!"
CL: Any favorite NFL teams, or favorite NFL players growing up?
RH: I loved the Falcons, and Michael Vick when he played for them. Warrick Dunn and Vick gave them a great ground game and I loved watching them run. Ricky Williams too, in 2002/2003 when he was just running wild with the Dolphins. There were a couple of teams I looked up to as a kid.
CL: When I talked to you after rookie minicamp you commented about why the No. 34 means so much to you. Can you expand on that today?
RH: One of the first years I started playing the game I fell in love with the way Ricky Williams ran the football. I loved the determination he ran with. I tried to imitate him on the field. I tried to have the same moves as him in the open field. He was very shifty and he was a slasher, and that's what I tried to be.
CL: Do you have any friends or family who play fantasy football?
RH: I know a couple of people that do. I haven't gotten into their fantasy league, but I know they're going to want to draft me! (laughs)
CL: How are you going to handle fantasy football requests like, "Hey do good this week because I started you"?
RH: I'll handle it alright! (laughs) I'm pretty sure those comments are going to come. (laughs)
CL: Off the field Ronnie, what do you do for fun?
RH: Off the field I'm into collecting shoes.
CL: Jordans? What's your favorite pair?
RH: Yeah man! I love the Air Jordan XI Cool Grays. It's a nice little collection that I have!
CL: What's in your iPod man? What's the hotness?
RH: (laughs) In my iPod? Meek Mill's Tupac Back or Ima Boss with Rick Ross. That stuff gets me going! (laughs)
CL: Ronnie, I appreciate the time and I look forward to watching your pro career.
RH: Yeah Big Mex, we're all good!