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Broncos Country heartbroken over news of DT’s death

RIP No. 88.

Denver Broncos vs Oakland Raiders Set Number: X161425 TK1

As the rumors became reports on Thursday night that one of the Broncos’ all-time special talents, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, had died - just two weeks shy of his 34th birthday on Christmas Day - Broncos Country unraveled.

And understandably so.

The Broncos mourned his loss in a statement as the outpouring of love kept coming on social media.

“We are devastated and completely heartbroken by the sudden, tragic passing of Demaryius Thomas. D.T. was beloved by our entire organization, his teammates and coaches, and our fans. Recently retiring as a Bronco, we were very much looking forward to celebrating Demaryius for years to come as one of the greatest players in franchise history.

“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. D.T. loved giving back — especially spending time with children — and impacted countless lives through the Broncos Boys and Girls Club, hospital visits, his annual football camp and many other genuine interactions. Demaryius’ humility, warmth, kindness and infectious smile will always be remembered by those who knew him and loved him.

The five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Denver Broncos from 2010-2018 before being traded midseason to the Houston Texans announced his retirement from the NFL last June.

Of course he retired a Bronco.

“I’m Demaryius Thomas. I finally came to a decision to hang it up ... I’m going to retire and I’m going to retire a Denver Bronco,” he said. “I’m done and I did well.’’

Known as “Bay Bay,” Thomas was beloved - by his QBs, his teammates, their kids, the fans, his mama and grandmama. And where most wide receivers love to showboat and cannot get enough of the limelight, DT was the opposite.

Shy, smiley, soft-spoken but not afraid of a good touchdown celebration, DT preferred to let his work on the field do the talking.

And he always had his quarterbacks in his corner. Only a handful of receivers garnered full trust from Peyton Manning, Broncos’ Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the 2015-16 season.

But DT was certainly one of them.

When DT retired, Manning had pre-recorded a message for him to see. Filmed by Broncos TV, Thomas was choked up listening to Manning’s high praise.

“I never played with anybody as big, strong, powerful and fast as Demaryius Thomas,” Manning said.

Given his quiet demeanor, it wasn’t always appreciated how hard of a worker DT was. He didn’t post workouts on Instagram or purposely draw attention to himself. His Twitter was primarily tweets of motivating Bible verses.

And there was a small but loud and misguided contingent of fans who liked to beat the #TradeDT drum after any dropped pass.

But if you ever doubted his work ethic, all you’d have to do is point to Super Bowl 48 where Thomas’ performance was one of the very few bright spots in that debacle for the Broncos.

It was also widely known that DT was a treasured playmate of Manning’s twins, Marshall and Mosley. Even after he was traded to Houston, Thomas was their favorite.

He attended all his teammates’ charity events and was a big participant in the Broncos’ work with the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver, visiting the Children’s Hospital and hosting camps for young aspiring players.

Reporters loved DT as well.

Humble and honest, he often used his platform to show his gratitude for the sport, his coaches, his teammates.

He owned up to mistakes and always lifted up the guys around him.

But it will be the fans - because it’s always the fans - who will carry this loss the most and feel it the deepest.

Not because we have any right to. We don’t really know Demaryius Thomas as a friend or son or longtime teammate who we’ve “gone to battle with” as they say.

Except we have. We have emotionally invested in players to the point that we look to them for inspiration, to pick up our mood, to give us a reason to cheer and feel good.

So often they deliver, but when they don’t, we blame them personally. It’s why we can never say it’s just a game.

Players like DT take our fanaticism in stride, recognizing what an important part of the game fans are, never taking us for granted - even when we might have taken them for granted.

Of all the tweets that made us simultaneously sad for the loss but happy for having been able to watch DT thrive in Denver, this one hit the hardest.

DT was a grateful player and sensitive soul. Not enough of those in sports, much less this world.

As Peyton Manning said in his statement last night, “Demaryius was an even better person than he was a player. And he was a Hall-of-Fame player.”

Rest in peace, No. 88.

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