Thanks Demaryius Thomas. Thanks DT. Thomas was on of the most important bridge pieces between some interesting times in Broncos Country. From Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning and (a really long freaking list of quarterbacks), DT was that one constant in a time full of change and growing pains for the Broncos.
Drafted in 2010 by the Josh McDaniels led Broncos with the 22nd pick, Thomas started his career in the midst of a QB controversy. Kyle Orton had been acquired via trade (Jay Cutler) the offseason before but what really sparked the QB drama was what happened just 3 picks after DT’s name was called. With the 25th pick of the 2010 draft, the Broncos selected Tim Tebow and the next two years would be something for the history books.
Thomas’s rookie season with Orton under center was, to put it mildly, forgettable. Denver went 4-12 that year which ultimately lead to McDaniels being fired after just under two seasons. DT finished his first year with 22 receptions and 2 touchdowns but for most Broncos fans, it was clear the guy had some big upside. At 6’3 and 225 pounds, Thomas certainly looked the part and in 2011, the year of the Tebow, he gave us a glimpse of what he could do…even if he only saw about 3 targets per game once Tebow took over the starting job.
Orton’s time in Denver was running on fumes in 2011 and when it appeared their season was all but finished, the Florida Gator took over. It was odd, exciting, infuriating and divisive amongst the fans but again, Thomas was a constant, a beacon of hope and one thing about 2011 Broncos Country agreed on.
Somehow, Denver found ways to win enough games to not only lock up a playoff spot, but win the AFC West. They did so with just an 8-8 record. And of course, we all recall one of the greatest plays in Broncos history; the 80 yard touchdown reception in Overtime vs. the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs.
See clip courtesy of NFL Youtube here:
Denver went on to lose to Tom Brady’s Patriots the next round but that season will forever be etched in our brains. Thomas finished the season with 32 receptions, 554 yards and 4 TD’s. Again, modest numbers but it was only year 2. The next few years would prove to be different. Much different.
Enter Peyton Manning. After clawing and scratching for wins in 2011, winning in 2012 was easy. The next 4 years saw Denver win 13, 13, 12 and 12, claim the AFC West title 4 times, the AFC Championship twice and a Super Bowl title. And Thomas was Manning’s go to. DT racked up the stats in those years with reception totals of 94, 92, 111 and 105, yard totals of 1,434, 1,430, 1,619 and 1,304. He had 10 TD’s in 2012, 14 in 2013 and 11 in 2014.
“I never played with anybody as big, strong, powerful and fast as Demaryius Thomas,” Manning said of his former teammate after Thomas announced his retirement. “Congratulations on an incredible NFL career. It was an honor and privilege to play with you, to be your teammate.”
Post Manning, DT’s numbers dipped but he still produced solid numbers despite playing with QB’s like Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum. He finished 2nd all time for the Broncos in both yards and touchdowns, behind only ring of famer, Rod Smith.
There’s many great players in Broncos history and some solid Wide Receivers but if we are being honest, the number as far as WR greats is 2. Smith and Thomas. DT will be a ring of famer and will live on as one of the greatest Broncos of all time.
Thanks for the memories DT.