Broncos mourn passing of Demaryius Thomas

Demaryius Thomas, one of the greatest and most beloved players in Broncos history, has passed away.

He was 33 years old.

Thomas, affectionately known as D.T. or “Bay-Bay” to close friends and family, was responsible for one of the top moments in franchise history, as he scored an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of overtime to lead the Broncos to an upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 NFL playoffs. During his career in Denver, Thomas helped guide the Broncos to five AFC West titles, a pair of AFC Championships and a Super Bowl 50 victory.

“We are devastated and completely heartbroken by the sudden, tragic passing of Demaryius Thomas,” the Broncos said in a statement. “D.T. was beloved by our entire organization, his teammates and coaches, and our fans. Recently retiring as a Bronco, we were very much looking forward to celebrating Demaryius for years to come as one of the greatest players in franchise history.

“During nine seasons in Denver, Demaryius established himself as a dominant, record-setting wide receiver who was an instrumental part of two championship runs and our victory in Super Bowl 50. His legacy as a Bronco extended far beyond the playing field as a caring, generous member of our community. D.T. loved giving back — especially spending time with children — and impacted countless lives through the Broncos Boys and Girls Club, hospital visits, his annual football camp and many other genuine interactions. Demaryius’ humility, warmth, kindness and infectious smile will always be remembered by those who knew him and loved him.

“We have lost an incredible player and a special person in Demaryius Thomas. Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to the Thomas family and all who are grieving this unimaginable loss.”

The dynamic wide receiver joined the Broncos as the 22nd-overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, and he developed into one of the franchise’s all-time greats at the position. Thomas ranks second in team history in career receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, and he is third in career receptions. Thomas also holds franchise records for the most receiving yards in a season (1,619), the most receiving yards in a game (226) and the most touchdown receptions in a season (14).

Thomas earned five Pro Bowl berths during his nine seasons with the organization, and he earned those honors in consecutive seasons. He is one of just four Broncos to make the Pro Bowl in five consecutive years.

Following nearly nine seasons in Denver, Thomas appeared in games with the Houston Texans and the New York Jets to finish his career. He announced his retirement in June of 2021.

In a career defined by big plays in big moments, Thomas made as many as any player in the NFL. After a highly productive career at Georgia Tech, Thomas was the first wide receiver drafted in 2010 and made his debut for Denver in Week 2 of that year. In his first game, Thomas posted a team-high eight catches for 97 yards and a touchdown, which was the third most productive game for a wideout in franchise history.

Injuries would prevent Thomas from having a major impact until late in the 2011 season, when Thomas showed signs of being a dominant NFL receiver. Thomas posted the first two 100-yard games of this career late in 2011, and he posted a monstrous 204-yard performance in the playoff upset of the Steelers. His overtime catch-and-run — complete with a physical stiff arm — will always be remembered as one of the franchise’s best plays.

When Peyton Manning joined the team in 2012, Thomas had a quarterback that could help maximize his potential. Thomas broke the 1,300-yard mark in each of his four seasons with Manning under center, culminating with a 111-catch, 1,619-yard, 11-touchdown performance in 2014. During that season, Thomas caught Manning’s 509th touchdown pass, which was then an NFL record.

Spurred by a career-high 14 touchdown receptions in 2013, Thomas scored double-digit touchdowns in three consecutive seasons and posted 41 scores across four years with Manning.

“D.T. was a better person than he was a player, and he was a Hall of Fame player,” Manning said in a statement. “That tells you how good of a person he was. He treated my kids like they were his own. He was there for every teammate’s charity event. I texted with D.T. on Tuesday. He was talking about a TD audible we called vs. Arizona in 2014. Absolutely devastated.”

In 2015, Thomas was one of the team’s top receiving threats as the Broncos earned the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, advanced through the playoffs and defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 for the team’s third world championship.

Thomas earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2012, and he made the Pro Bowl each year through the 2016 season. Thomas’ final 1,000-yard season came in 2016, when he caught 90 passes for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns as he caught passes from seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian and rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch.

No. 88 played his final game in Denver in 2018, and he was then traded to the Houston Texans. In his first game as a Texan, he returned to Denver to a heartfelt tribute from the team and its fan base. That season, as the Broncos drafted a pair of young receivers, Thomas served as a role model for players like Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick. He worked after practice in training camp with a slew of young players, always choosing to help better his team.

The four-time NFL Top 100 selection also fought through injuries for his team. From 2011 to 2018, he played in 132 consecutive games.

Thomas appeared in 18 combined games for the Texans and Jets from 2018-19, but he did not play during the 2020 campaign. Thomas announced his retirement in 2021 from his home in Georgia.

The longtime Bronco and undoubted future Ring of Famer was far more than an impressive NFL player. He was a staple in the Denver community, spending countless hours at the Denver Broncos Boys & Girls Club. Thomas would pen letters to kids who reached out to him, and he also made a number of trips to visit patients in local hospitals. In 2015, after a young boy who attended Thomas’ football camp was tragically killed in a commercial rafting accident, Thomas contacted the family and named one of his camp’s award after the late Drake Durkee. The young fan was buried in Thomas’ No. 88 jersey.

Thomas’ life in football also helped change his own family’s fortune. When Thomas visited the White House in June of 2016 following the Broncos’ Super Bowl title, he handed a letter to President Barack Obama about Thomas’ grandmother’s prison sentences. Thomas’ mother had previously had her sentence commuted, and she was able to see her son play in person for the first time in January of 2016. Following Thomas’ visit to the White House, Obama granted clemency to Thomas’s grandmother.

Thomas was born on Dec. 25, 1987 in Montrose, Georgia.