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Former NFL star Demaryius Thomas dies at 33

Police in Roswell, Georgia, said the former Broncos wide receiver's death appeared to be related to a medical issue.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas runs against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game in Denver in 2018.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas runs against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game in Denver in 2018. Thomas was found dead in his home Thursday. Jack Dempsey / AP, file

Former Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, a Super Bowl winner and one of the franchise’s most prolific pass catchers, was found dead at his Georgia home on Thursday night, police said.

He was 33 and foul play was not suspected.

“I can confirm that Demaryius Thomas was found deceased in his home this evening,” Roswell police officer and department spokesman Tim Lupo said in a statement.

“Preliminary information is that his death stems from a medical issue, and our investigators currently have no reason to believe otherwise.”

Cousin LaTonya Bonseigneur said Thomas, found in a shower at his home, had been struggling with seizures recently.

“He had been suffering from seizures for over a year, and we believe he had a seizure when he was showering,” Bonseigneur said early Friday. “We’re not sure when he died. We just spoke with him yesterday.”

A personal driver of Thomas made the sad discovery, according to Bonseigneur.

“He was alone and a friend couldn’t get hold of him, so he called his driver, who has a key because of these seizures, and he went into his home and found him in the shower,” she said.

Thomas would have turned 34 on Christmas Day.

Thomas, a wide receiver who played in the Pro Bowl five times and helped the Denver Broncos defeat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, announced his retirement in June.

"The NFL family mourns the tragic loss of Demaryius Thomas and we extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones," the league said on Twitter.

Thomas’ last two seasons before retirement were in 2019 with the New York Jets and 2018 with the Houston Texans.

But he’ll be best remembered as a favorite target of Peyton Manning during the Hall of Fame quarterback’s late-career surge in Denver, highlighted by the 2016 Super Bowl win.

“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."

Before Manning arrived in Denver for the 2012 season, the Broncos limped into the 2011 playoffs as 8-8 AFC West champions, quarterbacked by Tim Tebow.

The Broncos pulled a stunning, 29-23 overtime upset, over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wildcard round with Tebow and Thomas hooking up on an 80-yard score in sudden death.

“Woke up and saw the really devastating news about my teammate and friend, Demaryius Thomas,” Tebow said in a statement on Friday.

“So many are going to remember him for his athletic ability… but I’ll be remembering him for his kindness, his smile that would light up a room, and the love he had for those in his life.”

Thomas grew up in Montrose, Georgia, and he thrived at Georgia Tech despite the team running an old-fashioned, run-oriented offense that rarely showed off his skills.

But the Broncos still took note of Thomas’ talent and took him with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2010 draft.

Thomas never took success for granted and was grateful for his opportunities, according to Bonseigneur.

“Demaryius was a great guy,” Bonseigneur said. “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.”

He was just 11 when his mother, Katina Smith, was arrested on drug charges and sentenced to 20 years behind bars. She had turned down a lesser term for not testifying against her own mother and co-defendant.

Smith and the player’s grandmother, Minnie Pearl Thomas, would be freed by President Barack Obama under an initiative to reduce prison time for non-violent drug offenders. His mother asked for a Sony Walkman when she was released in 2015.

“I don’t even know if you can find a Walkman right now,” Thomas recalled telling her, before he got her an iPhone which she soon mastered to text and call her son daily.

Thomas was not married and had no children, according to Bonseigneur.