Last night, news came out that former NFL receiver Demaryius Thomas passed away.
Put simply, hearing this about the 33-year-old was sad and shocking, especially as a young football fan who grew up in Colorado.
Thomas was one of the first football players I knew of when I got into the sport. My first year really following the Broncos was the year of Tebow-mania. Down the stretch of that year, a 10-year-old Drake began to believe that Tim Tebow could be a long-term quarterback for Denver.
That obviously didn’t turn out to be true, but that’s not the point. There aren’t many football games that I remember more than that year’s wild card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I was in sixth grade at that time, and not a lot of people in my middle school were giving Denver a chance. I was convinced that the Broncos could win, though, mostly because of how little I knew about football.
But my validation eventually came thanks to Demaryius Thomas. My dad went to the game, I unfortunately had to stay behind at home. It’s crazy to look at the box score today and remember some of the players I had forgotten about. Eddie Royal and Elvis Dumervil were some of my personal favorites.
Tebow, Thomas, Royal and Dumervil all made plays to help Denver lead 20-6 at halftime. The defending AFC champion Steelers came back though, and I remember having a mix of sadness and hope when they did tie it with a few minutes to go.
Thomas already had 124 yards at this point. Then, on the first play of overtime, that play happened. Thomas caught the pass from Tebow, and won a foot race down the sidelines to send the Broncos into the divisional round.
Originally, I was jealous that my dad got to watch such a finish. However, what really stands out as the most vivid memory from that game was my dad coming home and telling us that he was in the bathroom during that play. He had foolishly ruled out Denver’s chances of scoring a one-play touchdown.
Thomas meant a lot to me as a young football fan, and that game will always stay as one of my favorite sporting memories. Over the next few years, he made more plays and even better seasons before eventually leaving Denver.
Of course, his accomplishments on the field aren’t all that defined him.
By every account, Thomas was a genuine, kind man. That’s not much of a surprise. I’m not sure I heard many interviews with him, but you could see it through his smile. Along with that, his Player’s Tribune piece is still incredible.
It also hurts to see another Black man dying so young. I’m 20 years old. 33 doesn’t seem all that far away. Virgil Abloh and Young Dolph also passed within the last month.
Seeing this much death is tiring, especially the deaths of people who had such big impacts on myself. I’m still processing a lot of my thoughts here, and it’s easy to be at a loss for words.
What I can say for sure, is that their influence will not be forgotten.