SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Snoop Dogg attended news conferences for both Super Bowl teams Thursday. He started Cam Newton’s event by taking the microphone used to ask questions and singing.
Dogg stopped by to speak with Demaryius Thomas. He might have been responsible for the smell of marijuana wafting through the streets of San Francisco. He also stopped to talk with Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman, who said their relationship went beyond news conference self-promotion.
Hillman grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and played on a youth football team in a league sponsored by Mr. Dogg. (Twins coach Eddie Guardado used to play men’s league basketball in Los Angeles in the same league as Snoop.)
“Snoop was just giving back to the community,” Hillman said. “He could have done a lot of things with his money but he took care of his neighborhood. You notice that kind of stuff. He was a mentor to a lot of players I know.”
In the AFC Championship Game, Hillman could have inspired a sequel to Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Hillman treated a football like it was on fire.
Peyton Manning threw a swing pass toward Hillman. The ball bounced. Hillman assumed it was an incomplete pass. The Patriots picked it up. The officials eventually ruled it was a lateral and gave the Patriots the ball. Had the officials immediately ruled that the pass was a lateral, the Patriots would have scored a touchdown on the play.
Hillman runs hard. He has spent his career fighting for playing time. This season, when starting running back C.J. Anderson was ineffective early in the season, Hillman became an important part of the offense. In his fourth season, he rushed for a career-best 863 yards and seven touchdowns, including a 72-yard touchdown run against the Vikings. “All I saw was green,” he said of that play.
So after proving himself in high school, playing at San Diego State, getting drafted in the third round by Denver, fighting for playing time for four years and finding himself on the field in the AFC title game against the hated Patriots, Hillman didn’t expend the energy to lean down and pick up a football?
“That’s totally on me,” he said. “I have to finish plays. In that position, you just have to pick up the ball. Even if you’re surprised by it. That’s on me. Either catch it or pick it up.
“Lesson learned. That will not happen again.”
Hillman is capable of making the kind of breakaway run that breaks open a game, as the Vikings know. He doesn’t expect his current coach, Gary Kubiak, to celebrate a touchdown the way Snoop Dogg did.
“No,” Hillman said. “I don’t think Coach Kubiak is going to do the same dance.”