Demaryius Thomas was a star wide receiver for the Denver Broncos. “A deadly combination of size, speed and ability that few have in the game today,” is how the Denver Post described him in an article about his “smash-mouth approach.”
He wore No. 88 for the Broncos and it was fitting, given his drive to make a name for himself.
Demaryius Thomas grew up in a tough part of Atlanta, Georgia, where his mother worked three jobs to try to provide for her four children. You could see it in his eyes that he had a mission, to succeed and to help his family out. Thomas was a star at LeFlore High School and elected onto the Georgia High School Athletic Association “All-State” team his senior year. But there were times that he asked himself, “What am I doing with my life?”
“The thing is, even with his reputation, he was not satisfied,” said Roquan Smith, who played with Thomas at Georgia. “He did things his way. He was a demanding guy, but he was very hard-working. He knew how to take care of himself.”
Although Thomas graduated from Florida State University, his chance to play in the NFL was not guaranteed. He had the worst workout of any draft prospect at the NFL scouting combine. But the Broncos offered him a chance to come to Denver and play a new position at wide receiver, often throwing downfield passes, while establishing himself as a big-play receiver.
“My drive was to make sure I’m on the field,” Thomas said at the NFL Combine. “I didn’t want to be sitting on the sideline. I wanted to be on the field. My motto is I’m hungry. I’m hard-working. I will never let nobody have the advantage over me.”
Thomas was one of the most productive players for the Broncos during the 2012-13 season. But he was not satisfied. He wanted more.
He was awarded with the Broncos highest-paid contract when he signed a seven-year deal in 2014.
“It’s very important for me to be on the field every play so I can be a big-time competitor on the field,” Thomas said. “I’m not here for the money.”
And he was an amazing competitor. He still had tremendous speed, he won numerous punt returns and he won numerous Super Bowl rings for the Broncos.
In one season alone he returned 10 punts for 493 yards and five touchdowns.
“I caught an 83-yard punt return in the end zone that year, I put up 454 yards and scored five touchdowns — nobody had ever done that in a game before,” Thomas said after the season. “It’s always important to have fun and to remember that.”
On Wednesday, Thomas died.
Thomas, 33, had a history of health problems. He had heart problems, a severe seizure in February and his brother is serving a prison sentence for drug trafficking.
Thomas’ younger brother, Damontre, told the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel that he was on the phone with his big brother before midnight on Tuesday.
At 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, Thomas texted him a photo of a police helicopter circling his house and said that he was surrounded by investigators.
“He was more focused, happier, better man,” his brother said of Thomas. “I’m not going to say it was a car accident or something. Something happened. I don’t know the details. He loved God. I know that. That’s why he went to church.”
I’m going to miss him. I never heard him say a bad word about anybody. Nothing bad to say about nobody. — Demaryius Thomas (@dltx) August 14, 2018
Condolences and a final farewell poured in for the revered NFL star.