Winter 2022 magazine

NFL mourns death of former Broncos legendary WR Demaryius Thomas: 'His greatest gift was joy'

At the age of 33 and only five months into his retirement, former NFL wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was found dead in his suburban Atlanta home on Thursday night, according to police. Early police reports indicate his death may have resulted from a medical issue, likely a seizure.

The Denver Broncos organization, where Thomas spent the first eight and a half of his 10 NFL seasons, released a statement on Thomas’ passing.

“We are devastated and completely heartbroken by the sudden, tragic passing of Demaryius Thomas,” the statement said. “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.

“… 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.”

As news about Thomas’ passing began to break late Thursday night, fans and former teammates and opponents took to Twitter to express their grief and condolences:

Thomas said in 2014 that, despite his difficult upbringing, he was introduced to Christ at a young age. Faith was prominent in his life and he would often post about God on social media. He also had a tattoo of Jesus above the words “Jesus saves” on his left arm, according to Outsider.

“Demaryius was a great guy,” LaTonya Bonseigneur, a first cousin who grew up with Thomas, told the AP. “He came from humble beginnings. He knew God. He was raised in the church and by a close-knit family. Even though he rose to stardom, to us he was just a kid from Montrose. We never fathomed he would go on to do all these amazing things. He was just a kid who loved playing football.”

One of the most memorable plays of his career came in a 2011-12 AFC wild-card game. Thomas caught a short pass from quarterback Tim Tebow on the first play of overtime and ran 80 yards for the touchdown to give the Broncos the victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers — the quickest overtime in NFL history.

Tebow, an outspoken Christ-follower who works for ESPN, happened to be in studio to make his first in-person appearance on “First Take” on Friday; he usually makes his appearances remotely. He was asked about Thomas.

“We all know how gifted D.T. was on the football field, but that was not his greatest gift. His greatest gift was the joy that he brought to life. … When he would walk in a room, he would make the room brighter. He made the room better, not because of what he did on the football field, but because of his smile, because of his kindness, because of his joy for life, because of his love for people,” Tebow said.

Drafted with the No. 22 overall pick out of Georgia Tech in 2010, Thomas made it to four Pro Bowls in Denver (2012-2014, 2016) and was named a second-team All-Pro in 2013 and 2014. He was an integral part of the Broncos team that won Super Bowl 50. He was traded to the Texans in 2018 and spent 2019, his final year in the league, with the Jets.

He officially retired as a Bronco in June and the organization honored him on the field during Denver’s home opener in Week 3.

Please join us in praying for Demaryius Thomas’ family, friends and all those affected by this tragedy.

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