Demaryius Thomas’s career in Denver has come to an end after eight and a half accomplished seasons, thanks to a trade that will send him to the Houston Texans. On this day, I feel it’s very important to explain just how much Thomas has meant to the Broncos over that span, and how gratitude should be the priority for Broncos fans today.
Thomas came to Denver at a difficult time not only for the Broncos, but also himself. Preparing for his NFL career, he broke his foot before he could participate in the combine. Thankfully, the injury did not hurt his draft status, as he was the first wide receiver off the board, even before Dez Bryant, who was the more high profile prospect. But news of his acquisition would soon be drowned out a mere three picks later when the Broncos took Tim Tebow. Regardless of Tebow’s acquisition, it is Thomas that headlined one of the brightest moments of Josh McDaniels’s tenure in Denver, a rookie class that also included Zane Beadles, Eric Decker, and JD Walton, all key starters in the future for the Broncos.
But while McDaniels may have nailed the 2010 NFL Draft on balance, he spiraled the 2010 NFL season into one of the worst in Broncos history–perhaps even the worst in the post-merger era. 2010 was also a spiral of more injuries for Thomas, culminating in its nadir with a torn Achilles tendon in February 2011. But that nadir would begin demonstrating proof of how tough of a football Thomas is. He would return to the field a mere six months later from such a devastating injury. His first game back? The Broncos’ first ever victory in franchise history at Miami, where he caught a key touchdown to start off a string of miraculous victories that year.
And the last of that string of miraculous victories? You know what that was. Tebow got the lion’s share of the glory for this play, but it was Thomas’s outstanding running and stiff arm that ensured the game would end in a Broncos victory right then and there.
After that those first two injury plagued seasons, Thomas did not miss a single game after that, no matter how much he may have been hurting through the brutal contact of football. And those 104 consecutive starts would include some of the most glorious times in Broncos history. That of course starts with the acquisition of Peyton Manning in 2012, and one has to wonder if Manning’s choice to come to Denver was influenced by the presence of young receiving talent that the Broncos had in Thomas, Decker, and later on Julius Thomas.
In Thomas’s four seasons with Manning, he tallied at least 1,300 yards each year, and had double digit touchdowns in three of those four years. This was achieved even with Decker earning 1,000 yard seasons of his own in 2012 and 2013, as Emmanuel Sanders doing the same the following three seasons as he replaced Decker. He was a Pro Bowler in five consecutive seasons. Thomas’s contribution was a key part of the team culmination of five straight AFC West titles, two AFC Championships, and one Super Bowl.
While Thomas’s statistical contributions on the field are stellar, he should also be equally praised for his demeanor both on and off the field. Always confident but rarely if ever boastful, Thomas provided the type of quiet leadership and rapport that is reminiscent of Champ Bailey’s tenure on the Broncos. He is a player that is damned near impossible for anyone to hate, even among the most partisan of rivals. Thomas’s positive attitude is exceptional given how difficult his childhood was. When Thomas did speak up, he did so effectively, with its peaks resulting in getting his mother and grandmother pardoned by the President of the United States.
There will naturally be feelings of sadness within both the Broncos organization and fanbase for this business decision. Those feelings should not be suppressed, but they should be supplemented with positive feelings of what Thomas has done for the team in the past, and what Courtland Sutton and other young receivers will do in the future that have allowed the Broncos to make this transaction.
Also for the future, the Broncos have already made it clear that one day Thomas will be in the Ring of Fame. That should have never been in doubt. Such an honor should be an obvious step toward work for a possible bid for enshrinement in Canton.
Thank you, Demaryius Thomas.