Daily Sports Smile: Broncos remember Demaryius Thomas with special tribute

A memorial for Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas before an NFL football game between the Denver Broncos and the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Denver. Thomas died earlier this week. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Jaylon Thompson
USA TODAY Sports+

The Denver Broncos remembered late receiver Demaryius Thomas Sunday afternoon. The team wore special No. 88 decals on helmets and set up a heartwarming memorial outside Empower Field at Mile High Stadium.

On the first play from scrimmage, the Broncos broke the huddle with just 10 players. They left one receiver position open for Thomas as a special tribute. The moment was met with loud applause from the Denver faithful. 

Thomas, 33, died Thursday after being found in his Georgia home. Around the league, several players expressed their condolences. The Broncos released a statement after learning of his tragic passing.  

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"We have lost an incredible player and a special person in Demaryius Thomas," the Broncos wrote in part of the statement. "Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to the Thomas family and all who are grieving this unimaginable loss."

Thomas retired with the Broncos earlier this year. He spent nine seasons with the organization after being selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Thomas still holds franchise records with most receiving yards (1,619) and receiving touchdowns (14) in a season.

Several Broncos players wore Thomas’ jersey ahead of the game. Broncos safety Justin Simmons wore a customized “RIP King” hoodie in remembrance. Kicker Brandon McManus had special custom cleats in Thomas’ honor.

Simmons also pledged $88 for every Broncos tackle to the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver.

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On the field, the Broncos added the number 88 to the sidelines. There was also a moment of silence and a video tribute ahead of the opening kickoff.

“There's still 10 players on this team that played with him,” Broncos head coach Vic Fangio told reporters on Friday. “A bunch of coaches that coached him, including [Running Backs Coach] Curtis Modkins, who recruited him to Georgia Tech and was one of his college coaches besides being on the staff here in 2018 with him.

“We have over 40 workers in the organization and the support staff that were around him. Just seeing and feeling their reaction and hurt just tells you what a special player D.T. was. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but [him being] a special player and a special person is obvious by their responses."

Thomas was a four-time Pro Bowler and helped lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl in 2015. He finished his career playing with the Houston Texans and New York Jets.