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General manager Tom Heckert Jr. of the Cleveland Browns watches the action during the team's organized team activity (OTA) on June 7, 2010 at the Cleveland Browns practice facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Tom Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)
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Former Broncos executive Heckert dies after battle with rare disease

General manager Tom Heckert Jr. of the Cleveland Browns watches the action during the team's organized team activity (OTA) on June 7, 2010 at the Cleveland Browns practice facility in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Tom Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Former Denver Broncos personnel executive Tom Heckert died Sunday at age 51 after a long illness, the team announced Monday morning.

Heckert stepped away from the Broncos following the 2017 season after being diagnosed in recent years with amyloidosis, a rare disease causing the buildup of amyloid proteins in organs that can lead to organ failure.

General manager John Elway and director of player personnel Matt Russell, both who worked closely Heckert, pass along sympathies to his family via a release.

“It’s easy to see why Tom was widely respected and had so many great relationships across the league. I’ll always be grateful for how he helped me transition into this position,” Elway said. “My prayers go out to Tom’s family, friends and everyone he worked with during his career.”

Said Russell: “The biggest thing with Tom was his loyalty, how he cared about his friends and how good he was at his job. Tom was one of the best because he combined exceptional player evaluation skills with his incredible network of connections around the NFL. Those relationships he formed are a testament to how well he treated everyone. Tom was a loyal friend and my heart goes out to his family.”

Heckert’s NFL career spans nearly three decades, from breaking in as a pro and college scout in 1991 with the Miami Dolphins to working as the Broncos director of pro personnel from 2013 to 2016.

Before his time in Denver, Heckert spent seven years as general manager for the Cleveland Browns (2010-’12) and the Philadelphia Eagles (2006-’09).

During his tenure in Denver, Heckert helped lead the Broncos to three playoff appearances (2013-’15), including a victory in Super Bowl 50.

Follow digital content producer Johnny Hart on Twitter: @JohnnyHart7.