Tragic Details About Demaryius Thomas

Football fans around the world were shocked to learn of the untimely death of Demaryius Thomas in December 2021. Thomas, who began and ended his career as a Denver Bronco, was beloved by the fan base, not just for his part in leading the team to victory in the Super Bowl but also for his gentle demeanor off the field. "D.T. 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," teammate and friend Peyton Manning said in a statement, per Fox 21 News. "He treated my kids like they were his own. He was there for every teammate's charity event."

At the time of his death, Thomas had retired from a successful NFL career, in which, by the age of just 33, he'd played for numerous teams, won the Super Bowl, and was worth an estimated $25 million (via Celebrity Net Worth). Despite his successful career and large net worth, Thomas didn't have an easy life. He spent his childhood moving from house to house, searching for stability in the wake of his mother's arrest, something that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Thomas' tragically short life was full of hardship, making his death just six months after retiring especially heartbreaking.

Demaryius Thomas's mother and grandmother were arrested

Demaryius Thomas' childhood wasn't exactly easy to begin with, and it became even more complicated when he was 11, and his mother and grandmother were arrested on drug trafficking charges. "I was sleeping by the door when the men busted in. It was seven in the morning, right before school. The first thing I saw were the guns pointing at me," Thomas wrote in The Players Tribune. "Big guns. Like in a movie. I didn't know they were police. I just saw guns and red dots flashing. They told me to get down."

Thomas' mother, Katina Smith, and stepfather were then escorted out of the house in handcuffs. His mother eventually accepted a 20-year sentence after refusing to testify against her own mother, who was also indicted. The incident proved to be incredibly traumatic for Thomas, who would recall the fallout during a routine therapy appointment while playing for the NFL, per ESPN.

Thomas barely knew his mother growing up. It wasn't until he started college that they reconnected. Things came full circle, though, in 2015, when President Obama commuted his mother's sentence and then his grandmother's (in 2016) as their crimes were non-violent, per The Denver Post. Thomas personally thanked him while visiting the White House after winning the Super Bowl in 2016 (via USA Today).

Demaryius Thomas grew up poor

Demaryius Thomas did not come into the world under the easiest of circumstances. His mother, Katina Smith, gave birth to him when she was 16 and dropped out of high school to care for him. They lived in a trailer in rural Georgia, so small that for the first several years of his life, they had to share a bed. Eventually, his mother got a job pressing tags onto shirts in a factory — though that still didn't pay well. She began helping his grandmother sell drugs to make ends meet, per ESPN.

After his mother and grandmother's arrest, Thomas bounced around between relatives, eventually landing on his aunt and uncle's farm. Life on the farm was strict. Thomas adhered to a tight schedule and was required to work in the fields early in the morning. "I used to wake up at six in the morning and get to pullin' before school. That's hard work. Where I grew up, stupid situations were very easy to get into," Thomas wrote in the Players Tribune. "I had a choice: the drug game, or the corn game. I kept thinking: just don't screw up a chance to get to college. That was my light that I focused on."

That hard work eventually paid off. After earning a scholarship to Georgia Tech, Thomas was drafted by the Broncos in 2010, thus beginning a lucrative NFL career. At the time of his death, he was reportedly worth $25 million (via Celebrity Net Worth).

Demaryius Thomas suffered a lot of injuries

If you're going to play football, you're probably going to get hurt, and Demaryius Thomas was no exception to that rule. During his stint in the NFL, Thomas suffered various injuries, including problems with his Achilles heel, a hip sprain, and even a fractured finger, per Draft Sharks.

Most notably, though, Thomas majorly frightened Broncos fans back in 2018 when he fell on the field during a non-contact play against the Eagles. He was escorted away amid concerns he had damaged his Achilles heel, per Bleacher Report. His season was cut short, and rumors swirled that this most recent injury might be the death knell for his career. Thomas was quick to dismiss the rumors, though, "I can still play, man," he told a reporter at the Houston Chronicle. "I'm not thinking about retirement. I just don't know where it will be."

The scary heel issue wasn't the only problem Thomas faced during his tenure in the sport, though. A few months later, during the 2019 season, Thomas injured his hamstring in a game against the Cleveland Browns, per Bleacher Report. It seems like the hamstring issue might have been the straw that broke the camel's back. After a slew of injuries, Thomas finally decided to retire in 2021 at just 33 years old.

Demaryius Thomas became estranged from his mother

It is little surprise that Demaryius Thomas' once close relationship with his mother, Katina Smith, suffered greatly after her 1999 arrest. "For as long back as I can remember, she was pretty much the only person I felt like I knew," Thomas told ESPN in 2014. "Nobody was closer to their mom than me." The self-proclaimed "mama's boy" felt an overwhelming amount of resentment towards her and the stability he'd lost following her incarceration.

Thomas didn't feel comfortable visiting Smith in jail, their conversations were always tense, and eventually, he stopped going altogether. He felt angry that she hadn't testified against her own mother in a drug case, thereby forfeiting a potential plea deal that would have meant she'd be out after only a few years. Communications between the two all but stopped until Thomas landed at Georgia Tech his freshman year. The football team's motto, "family, togetherness, and loyalty," inspired him to try and mend the relationship.

They began speaking regularly and rebuilding trust. Finally, in 2016, Thomas got the call that Smith's sentence had been commuted by President Obama and that she was finally free. "What really matters is that I'm going to get to hug my mother again. I can call her anytime I want now," he wrote in the Players Tribune. "We got a lot of catching up to do."

Demaryius Thomas died just six months after retiring

Tragically, Demaryius Thomas died just as he was about to begin a new chapter of his life. The Super Bowl champ retired from the Denver Broncos in June of 2021 and officially returned to his home state of Georgia, per The New York Times. "I'm Demaryius Thomas. I finally came to a decision to hang it up," Thomas, who ended his career as #88, said in a video posted to the Denver Broncos' Twitter account. "I'm going to retire and I'm going to retire a Denver Bronco."

Thomas was walking away from his career content with all he had accomplished. "I'm just happy to say I'm done and [football] did me well," he continued. "I just wanted to be considered one of the best [to come] through Denver. I tried to do my best ... I tried to practice all the time."

Thomas wasn't exactly sure what he wanted to do next, but he knew he wanted to help people. "I've been just trying to find myself. Leaving ball is a tough thing," he explained. "I was trying to find what I wanted to do next and build a relationship where I can help people ... trying to find something that I love."

Demaryius Thomas set an example for his teammates

Perhaps the most tragic thing about Demaryius Thomas' early death was all those he left behind. The NFL champ was remembered fondly at the funeral held at his former high school. Over a thousand people gathered to listen to Thomas' high school coach, Dwayne Gibson, share a story about the vast maturity he showed even at a young age. Gibson detailed how Thomas once got in trouble for slacking during practice, even though he was a senior and at that point had already received an offer to play at Georgia Tech, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. By all accounts, Thomas didn't need to worry about slacking off anymore. Even so, he reportedly made a point of apologizing to the coach and never slacked off again.

Thomas' good attitude also left an impression on his professional teammates like Peyton Manning. "Obviously [he was] an incredible player — dependable, accountable, tough, hard-working, unselfish. All the things you want in a great teammate ... much less an incredibly talented receiver," Manning told People after learning of Thomas' death.

"Off the field, he was as good a person as he was a player. [He was] very giving to all his teammates' charities, great with all the players and families — coaches' families and kids," he continued, adding "He was great to my kids, great to my family — which is more important than any touchdown he ever caught for me."

Demaryius Thomas' cause of death is still a mystery

Demaryius Thomas' death came as a shock to many. After all, he was only 33 when he died, and as a former professional athlete, was in pretty good shape. However, as of this writing, his cause of death has yet to be confirmed. "Preliminary information is that his death stems from a medical issue," a spokesperson told The New York Times.

In the days following the tragedy, his family claimed they thought he may have succumbed to an issue he'd been having with seizures. "He had been suffering from seizures for over a year, and we believe he had a seizure when he was showering," Thomas' first cousin said in an interview with the AP. "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."

Some reports suggested that Thomas began suffering from seizures after a near-fatal 2019 car crash. Thomas was reportedly driving 70 mph in a 30 mph zone when he flipped his car and hit a median, per Fox 31.