Three-of-three catches. 61 yards. 20 yard-per-catch average. A 31-yard play.
On any other Sunday those would be nice wide receiver stats for Demaryius Thomas at Mile High.
Except this time Thomas was No. 87 for the Houston Texans - and no longer No. 88 for the Denver Broncos.
.@DemaryiusT takes the field.#HOUvsDEN pic.twitter.com/VbmRjuyMQn— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) November 4, 2018
Traded to the Texans on Tuesday, the wide receiver returned to his home stadium in the visitor’s locker room, wearing the visiting team’s jersey.
“It’s been weird and just different,” Thomas said after the game. “Coming out of a different tunnel I’ve never come out of, being in a locker room that I’ve never been in, in the past eight or nine years. Seeing my guys warm up, seeing the guys come over and speak to me differently.”
And even though Thomas’ new team got the close win and maintained it's runat the playoffs with a 6-3 record, the wide receiver just wanted to get off the field and get the game behind him.
“I think that was the fastest I ran all day,” he said. “I ran inside. We got that ‘W’ and I was excited.”
But his voice didn’t exude typical excitement for a victory.
Thomas was happy to contribute to his new team after just three days of practice, but his infectious smile seemed far more genuine when greeting Peyton Manning’s children after the game than talking about the victory.
Peyton Manning’s kids waited outside the Texans locker room to see Demaryius Thomas pic.twitter.com/3DRyJ9b2Gt— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) November 5, 2018
“It was tough man, it was tough,” he said. “Throughout the week it was tough, it was tough throughout the week. I just wanted to make sure I could go out, play, and help my guys because I know the coaches were looking for that. I did what I had to do to try and get on the field and play my best ball.”
Thomas was targeted early in the Texans’ first drive, and he came through big immediately - with 31- and 18-yard catches to highlight an easy Texans drive capped off with a Jordan Thomas touchdown.
Though he made a few mistakes and got a little extra direction from his new quarterback Deshaun Watson, DT’s presence was known as the Broncos realized early they would have to account for him.
“Very badly. I wanted to win badly, not for just me, but for the guys that have been working hard that won five in a row,” he said, adding that he was relieved his mistakes - especially a false start on a fourth-quarter third-down, didn’t cost his new team the win.
“I messed up a couple of times, I felt like it would have been on me if we didn’t get this W, especially at those times because it was third down and that was big,” Thomas added. “We came out, guys kept fighting, nobody pointed fingers, that play was over and we went to the next.”
"I think it's great. The Houston #Texans got a win."@DemaryiusT recaps a roller coaster day as he returned to Denver.— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) November 5, 2018
8️⃣7️⃣ » https://t.co/pJOx1JRhag pic.twitter.com/RUoNIH3XuH
Thomas was grateful for his new teammates and the trust they had in him to deliver, but he told the team before the game he didn’t want it to be about him coming back to Mile High. It was about the Texans.
“I was like ‘let’s do it for the Houston Texans. Not me.’ I don’t want anybody to change their game; I don’t want anybody to think differently,” he said. “It’s not about me because I’ve been on one squad and finally playing the squad for the first game that I changed to, it’s about the Houston Texans. It’s about going out and getting that win, getting six in a row and putting ourselves in a good position for a playoff run.”
The Broncos honored DT before the game with a short video tribute to the wide receiver drafted by the Broncos in 2010 and a franchise leader in multiple categories, including receiving yards in a season (1,619 in 2014), touchdowns in a season (14 in 2013), 100+ yard games in his career (34) in a season (10 in 2014) and in the playoffs (3, tied with Vance Johnson).
#ThankYouDT ❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/ceHYieTBJ8— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) November 4, 2018
For fans it was a nice goodbye - even if hard to see Thomas in a new number and jersey.
But for DT, it was obvious the now former Broncos wideout was already trying to move on.
“It was good, I was thankful for [the tribute], but at the end of the day I was trying to do my best and do whatever I had to do to get this ‘W,’” he said, adding that he was a little nervous after messing up on two plays before his catches. “The good thing is they don’t blame over here, which is good. That tells you they have a good group of guys, a championship team and it’s just the small things you have to fix and we’ll be better.”
The good news for Broncos fans who love No. 88, Demaryius Thomas is on a playoff-contending team.
It’s just not for the home team anymore.
November 5, 2018