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Demaryius Thomas: an inspiration from start to tragic end

The former NFL wide receiver retired in June and would've been 34 on Christmas. He wanted to be remembered as Demariyus Thomas, not just a football player.


Football was never just a game for Demariyus Thomas. It was his path to financial security after a lifetime of living in poverty. It was a way to bring his family back together after his mother and grandmother had spent years away in prison.

Thomas had to overcome intense struggle to get to the NFL

When Thomas was just 11 years old, his mother and grandmother were sent to prison for nonviolent drug offenses. It is the moment that shaped the rest of his life. His mother gave birth to Thomas when she was just 15 years old, so they were close in age and often played sports together. He told her that he was going to go pro in one of them, and he did.

Thomas never gave up on the relationship he had with his family. From childhood to adolescence to college and becoming an NFL star, he did what he could to keep in touch with his mother and grandmother. In 2010, Thomas was drafted to the NFL by the Denver Broncos. In 2015, his mother, Katina Smith, was one of 46 people who had their sentences commuted by President Barack Obama. It was just a year later that Thomas’ grandmother, Minnie Pearl Thomas, also received clemency.

The Broncos and Thomas made it to the Super Bowl that year, and it was the year his mother was finally able to watch her son play football. He attributed football to many of the positive things that happened to him. “Football has done a lot; I've been able to take care of myself and a lot of other people."

Thomas played 9 seasons with the Denver Broncos and was the second-leading receiver behind Rod Smith. He is third in franchise history in catches and he went to four Pro Bowls and won one Super Bowl with the team. Broncos CEO Joe Ellis spoke about how soft-spoken Thomas was, but that he was completely dominant on the field.

Thomas' tragic passing came too soon

The young former NFL receiver tragically passed away on December 9. He had just retired in June and was proud of what he’d accomplished. He would have been 34 years old on Christmas Day. He is remembered for his love for his family and his kind and gentle spirit.

Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning spent four seasons playing with Thomas said this about the player: “DT was a better person than he was a player, and he was a Hall of Fame player. 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. …Absolutely devastated.”


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