I’ve long been a big believer in Ronnie Hillman, largely because I watched him shred Air Force’s defense during his days with San Diego State. He runs bigger than his 195-pound frame. He’s tough. He can gain yards up the middle with his power and outside the corners with his speed.
He has a fumbling problem. He’s traveled, rapidly, from probable starter in the Broncos immensely powerful offense to probable bench sitter.
Is he doomed to watch from the bench this season?
I retain faith, even if I must concede reality. NFL quarterbacks can throw a multitude of interceptions – even ones when they seem blind – and still strut around as starters. Brett Favre and Jay Cuter are recent examples of this trend.
NFL running backs do not enjoy this margin of error. If a running back struggles with fumbles, he’s going to get banished to the bench. Hillman has his career in his hands, and we’re talking literally.
If he can learn to better grip the ball, he will start. He’s the most gifted of the Broncos halfbacks. I realize that’s not a tremendous compliment.
When Hillman fumbled on Saturday night at Mile High, one of my buddies in the pressbox teased me a little about my belief in Hillman. I deserved the teasing.
And yet …
I still think he has a chance to shine. Playing halfback beside Peyton Manning is one of the choice gigs in sports. Hillman must realize this. He has tremendous incentive to banish fumbling from his life.