The Denver Broncos lined up with just 10 men on the field for the first snap of Sunday’s home game with the Detroit Lions to pay tribute to the late Demaryius Thomas.
The receiver spot where Thomas once regularly lined up for the Broncos was left open. Denver let the play clock wind down for a delay of game and the Lions declined the penalty as fans loudly chanted “D.T., D.T.”
The atmosphere in Denver was heavy with memories of Thomas, who was found dead Thursday at age 33 at his home in Roswell, Ga.
Reports have indicated Thomas was dealing with seizures. Police said Thursday that his death might have resulted from a medical issue.
The Broncos set up a memorial for Thomas around his No. 88 and also played a video tribute for the wideout, who played 8 1/2 of his 10 NFL seasons with the team. He ranks second in team history with 9,055 receiving yards and 60 receiving touchdowns and third with 665 receptions. Rod Smith (1995-2006) is the leader in all three categories.
Former Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, who played four seasons (2012-15) with Thomas, was among the many who paid respects. Manning and Thomas were teammates on the club’s Super Bowl-winning team in 2015.
“Obviously an incredible player: Dependable, accountable, tough, hard-working, unselfish. All of the things you want in a great teammate, much less an incredibly talented receiver,” Manning said in a video released by the Broncos. “But off the field, he was every bit as good a person as he was a player. Very giving to all of his teammates’ charities, great with all of the players’ families, coaches’ families and kids.
“It’s been really tough. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. He will be dearly missed. He was great to my kids, great to my family, which is more important than any touchdown that he ever caught for me. … He was a big reason why I came out here to play. I knew what he had done in just two years, but I also knew what I felt he was capable of doing. And that was a big part of attracting us coming out to play for the Broncos. So for so many reasons, I’m very indebted and thankful to Demaryius.”
Denver players wore a No. 88 decal on their helmets and many tapped a portrait of Thomas prior to the game.
Thomas, a four-time Pro Bowl receiver, caught 90 or more passes in five straight seasons (2012-16) and also topped 1,000 yards in each of those five campaigns. Thomas caught a career-best 14 touchdowns in 2013.
Overall, Thomas finished with 724 catches, 9,763 yards and 63 touchdowns in 143 NFL games. He also played in seven games for the Houston Texans in 2018 and 11 for the New York Jets in 2019.
Thomas, who formally announced his retirement from the NFL in June, would have turned 34 on Christmas Day.
–Field Level Media
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