Peyton Manning has once again made the perfect decision.
And although he can no longer throw a pass to Demaryius Thomas, one of his favorite receivers, he can still honor his very good friend every year with scholarships to DT’s alma mater, Georgia Tech.
The PeyBack Foundation, Manning’s charitable organization with his wife Ashley, established the Demaryius A. Thomas Scholarship Endowment, in memory of Manning’s Denver Broncos teammate and Georgia Tech football legend Demaryius Thomas.
“Demaryius Thomas was an incredibly talented and unselfish teammate, but more importantly, he was a special person and friend,” Manning said, noting that he wanted to honor DT’s memory. “My family and I miss him dearly. ...An important part of Demaryius’ legacy was the way he inspired the next generation to pursue their dreams with the same perseverance and determination that defined him.”
Manning hopes the scholarship will “have a lasting impact on deserving youth from his hometown area who can follow in his footsteps and accomplish great things in life.”
Several current Broncos also noted what an outstanding way to remember the standout wide receiver.
“It was good to see, honestly. I think that’s the biggest thing to do to honor ‘D.T’ because he was a great football player, but he cared about people more and helping people,” said Tim Patrick. “For Peyton to do something like that, his family, to be able to do something like that for ‘D.T.’, it means a lot. Not just to me, but probably to the ‘D.T.’ family, too. It was a good thing to see.”
Justin Simmons called it “absolutely amazing.”
“I think we’re in a world today—or at least a society today—where we say, ‘If I was this person, I would have done this. If I had this, I would do that.’ When it comes down to it, no one is responsible to do anything for anyone else. When you look at it from that perspective, Peyton didn’t have to do what he did, but it was because ‘D.T.’ meant so much to him,” Simmons said.
The safety added that Manning’s actions showed an appreciation for his teammate at a different level.
“You come from an aspect of thinking that he should because he’s D.T.’s teammate and his brother and they did so many great things together. He didn’t have to,” Simmons said. “For him to take that step—for him and his family to take that step—and honor D.T., his family and all those kids that they are going to affect in D.T.’s hometown for years and years and years to come to go on to Georgia Tech with full scholarships or partial scholarships—that, to me, is like the ultimate show of respect. I can’t say any more good things about it. Looking at the surface, he didn’t have to do something like that. The fact that he did, spoke volumes to what D.T. meant to him. I think that was really special.”
The Demaryius A. Thomas Scholarship Endowment will endow academic scholarships to attend Georgia Tech for incoming freshmen students from Laurens County, Ga., where Thomas was born and raised, or surrounding areas who demonstrate significant financial need.
Thomas became only the 12th first-round draft pick in Georgia Tech history when the Broncos selected him with the 22nd overall pick in the 2010 Draft.
Thomas played 10 seasons in the NFL, highlighted by eight-and-a-half seasons with the Broncos, where he caught 665 passes for 9,055 yards and 60 touchdowns in 125 games, ranking third, second and second in team history, respectively. D.T. owns 16 Broncos franchise records, including single-season receiving yards (1,619 in 2014) and career 100-yard receiving games (33). He earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2013 and 2014 and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection (2012-14, 2016).
In Broncos lore, Thomas is perhaps best remembered for being one of the most prolific postseason performers in the franchise’s illustrious history.
Making his NFL playoff debut in the divisional round of the 2011 playoffs versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, he caught four passes for a Denver postseason record 204 yards, including the game-winning 80-yard touchdown reception on the first play of overtime that lifted the Broncos to a legendary 29-23 win over the Steelers.
This Demaryius Thomas touchdown in OT from Tebow was awesome— This Day in Chicago Sports (@ChiSportsDay) December 10, 2021
A season later, Manning joined the Broncos and the duo helped lead Denver to a pair of Super Bowl appearances. In Super Bowl XLVIII, despite horrendous offensive production, Thomas set a then-Super Bowl record with 13 receptions from Manning in the Broncos’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Two seasons later (2015), the duo won Super Bowl 50 with a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Thomas caught 36 of his 60 NFL touchdowns on passes from Manning, marking the fourth-most hauled in by any receiver during Manning’s 18-season Hall of Fame career.
Affectionately nicknamed “Bay Bay,” Thomas was born in 1987 on Christmas Day in Laurens County.
One of the greatest wide receivers in Georgia Tech football history, Thomas redshirted as a true freshman at Tech in 2006 and went on to play three seasons before being drafted. He officially recorded 113 receptions (10th in school history) for 2,135 yards (sixth) and 13 touchdowns (t-seventh) in his three collegiate campaigns, and his whopping 25.1 yards per reception as a junior in 2009 remains the second-highest single-season receiving average in Tech’s all-time annals. He also helped lead the Yellow Jackets to consecutive ACC coastal division championships in 2008 and 2009, earning All-America and all-ACC recognition in 2009.
In honor of the establishment of the Thomas Scholarship, Georgia Tech athletics announced that August 8 (8/8) of each year will be recognized by Tech as Demaryius Thomas Day, beginning this summer.
"My family and I miss him dearly, and we wanted to honor DT's memory."— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) April 27, 2022
The scholarship will support incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech from Laurens County, Ga., where Thomas was born and raised. pic.twitter.com/aIwuYRNL0U
Chosen in memory of the jersey No. 8 that Thomas wore at Georgia Tech and No. 88 that he wore for the Broncos (and a majority of his NFL career), 8/8 will be the date each season that Tech football will recognize the student-athlete(s) who are chosen to wear jersey No. 8.
Other 8/8 festivities will include Georgia Tech athletics recognizing the Thomas Scholarship recipient and partnering with a local youth-oriented organization for a community service event, as well as a friend, teammate and/or family member being invited to speak to the Yellow Jackets’ football student-athletes.
Additionally, Georgia Tech football will honor Thomas’ memory throughout the 2022 season with a No. 8 helmet decal and a No. 8 memorial painted on the field for home games at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Georgia Tech director of athletics Todd Stansbury acknowledged their gratitude to the Mannings for helping establish the scholarship.
“Thanks to their generous contribution,” he said, “Demaryius’ legacy will be carried on through Georgia Tech students from Laurens County and surrounding areas for years to come and his memory will be celebrated each year during our 8/8 Day recognitions.”