DENVER — Demaryius Thomas, a Super Bowl champion and longtime member of the Denver Broncos, was found dead Thursday night in his Georgia home. He was 33.
The police department in Roswell, Georgia, confirmed Thomas' death. A public information officer said that "preliminary information is that his death stems from a medical issue, and our investigators currently have no reason to believe otherwise."
Thomas' sister told The Associated Press the family believes Thomas died of a seizure. Multiple former teammates said they were also told Thomas died of a seizure.
Former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said he texted with Thomas, known as DT by his teammates, on Tuesday night.
"I am absolutely devastated," Manning told Patrick Smyth, the Broncos Chief Communications Officer. "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."
The Broncos released a statement shortly after midnight on Friday.
"During nine seasons in Denver, Demaryius established himself as a dominant, record-setting wide receiver who was an instrumental part of two championship runs and our victory in Super Bowl 50. His legacy as a Bronco extended far beyond the playing field as a caring, generous member of our community," the team's statement read, in part. "Demaryius' humility, warmth, kindness and infectious smile will always be remembered by those who knew him and loved him."
Many ex-teammates and coaches reacted with an emotional outpouring of love.
"It was an honor to play with you. Thank you for always believing in me! Rest easy my brother," Broncos All-Pro left tackle Garett Bolles tweeted.
It was an honor to play with you. Thank you for always believing in me! Rest easy my brother. pic.twitter.com/18z6ggshBX— Garett Bolles (@gbolles72) December 10, 2021
"Heartbroken," former Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware said.
"Just a great dude. Amazing spirit," former Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall said.
"I'm so sad.. I'm heartbroken. I'm at a total loss. I'm sick.... I'm crying I'm just.... I don't know. The Azzanni family will always love you DT. I'm blessed to have known you. RIP #88," Broncos wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni tweeted.
I'm so sad.. I'm heartbroken. I'm at a total loss . I'm sick.... I'm crying I'm just.... I don't know .The Azzanni family will always love you DT. I'm blessed to have known you. RIP #88 pic.twitter.com/UOmCQK8QR5— Zach Azzanni COACH Z (@CoachZBroncos) December 10, 2021
Thomas retired as a Bronco last summer, paving his way back to his eventual induction into the team's Ring of Fame.
Thomas arrived in Denver in 2010 as a first-round draft choice, known for his blocking and athleticism at Georgia Tech.
He evolved into the franchise's second-most accomplished receiver ever, behind only Rod Smith. Thomas, who would have turned 34 on Christmas Day, earned five Pro Bowl berths and two All-Pro selections. He caught 724 passes for 9,763 passes for 63 touchdowns during his nine-season career with the Broncos, Texans and Jets.
He will forever be known for his walk-off score against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs, catching a slant pass from Tim Tebow.
From 2012 to 2017, Thomas became one of the league's premier wideouts. He averaged 96 catches and nine touchdowns per season, his rise coinciding with his connection with Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning, who maintained a friendship with Thomas.
However, there was so much more to Thomas than statistics.
Current Broncos standout Tim Patrick credits Thomas for inspiring him to become a better pro by learning what he could control through his attitude and work ethic.
From Manning to DeMarcus Ware to Chris Harris Jr., teammates admired Thomas, a longtime Broncos' captain.
"I always had great respect for your toughness, your work ethic, your fearlessness across the middle, your ability to make big catches in big games," Manning said when Thomas announced his retirement in June. "You did it the right way."
Former Broncos offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus played on the Super Bowl 50 championship team with Thomas.
"DT sat with my son the entire plane ride home from the Super Bowl," he tweeted. "He held him on his lap on the bus, carried him and hoisted him on the fire truck during the parade and celebrated with him as if his own kid. I hope my son remembers 88."
DT sat with my son son the entire plane ride home from Super Bowl, held him on his lap on Bus, carried him and hoisted him on fire truck during the parade and celebrated with him as if his own kid. I hope my son remembers 88. pic.twitter.com/tpByZZaklo— Tyler Polumbus (@Tyler_Polumbus) December 10, 2021
This story was originally published by Troy Renck on Scripps station KMGH in Denver.