After sitting out the first two weeks of the season, rookie running back Ronnie Hillman has come on strong in recent weeks.
Two games after picking up a career-high 86 yards rushing on 14 carries against New Orleans, Hillman found the end zone for his first NFL touchdown late in Sunday’s 36-14 win over the Panthers.
With Denver facing 1st-and-goal from the Carolina 5-yard line after a long pass from quarterback Peyton Manning to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, Hillman used his speed to get to the corner, beating the defense around left end for his first career touchdown.
His mindset during the carry was simple.
“All that was going through my head was just score,” Hillman said. “I only got a couple opportunities like that, so I think I’ve got to get in the end zone.”
As for the one defender who had a shot to bring Hillman down shy of the goal line, the running back said he was determined not to be denied.
“You just do whatever you have to do. It wasn’t anything in particular. I was just thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this ball past that goal line.’”
Having achieved two career milestones in the past three weeks, Hillman has quickly progressed from being inactive to making a substantial contribution to the offense.
“I feel like I’ve come a long way,” Hillman said. “But I feel like I could do a lot better.”
Hillman, who is known for his explosive speed, said translating that ability to the field will be the key to making continued progress.
“Playing faster,” Hillman said of how he can improve. “I have to play faster and play a lot better.”