By Doug Ottewill, Mile High Sports Magazine
The inclusion of Demaryius Thomas in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame can be justified by a few simple numbers. In fact, it could be argued that Thomas was the greatest wide receiver in Broncos history; it’s a two horse race between he and Rod Smith, who was inducted in 2009.
The statistical comparison between the two ranks Thomas second all-time in Broncos receiving yards (9,055), while Smith tops the list with 11,389. But Thomas ranks highest in receiving yards per season, besting the 1,000-yard mark with 1,006-yard average as a Bronco. Smith played 12 seasons in Denver, while Thomas was traded during his ninth. Thomas also tops all Broncos receivers in catches per season, hauling in nearly 73 per season (an impressive 655 total). Thomas’ 60 touchdown and 362 total points scored, makes him fourth on the Broncos all-time list for non-kickers; he ranks behind Smith, Gene Mingo and Terrell Davis. In the history of the Broncos receiving records, Thomas possesses five of the team’s top-15 seasons in catches, four in receiving yards and three touchdown catches. He also holds the franchise single season receiving yards record – an incredible 1,619-yard performance in 2014.
Thomas or Smith? Smith or Thomas? It’s certainly debatable – at worst they’re “1A” and “1B” – but their worthiness for indication into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame is indisputable.
Merely defining Thomas by his statistical accomplishments or as a comparison to Smith, however, would underscore what Thomas meant to Broncos Country. A quiet star, Thomas was a leader both on and off the field. He didn’t seek the spotlight, although it found him regularly. At a chiseled 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, he looked more like a tight end than a receiver at times – but it was his blazing speed and soft hands that made him the Broncos best offensive weapon anytime he stepped on the field.
Growing up in rural Georgia, Thomas’ tumultuous childhood was well-documented; perhaps it was no surprise that he was more apt to talk to a kid than most adults. Children simply loved him; his work with the Boys and Girls Club and his annual summer football camps held for aspiring young athletes served as evidence of that.
Thomas was also an integral part of some of the biggest moments in Broncos history. In Denver’s historic 2013 season, quarterback Peyton Manning (CSHOF Class of 2018) set single season records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55), of which Thomas had 1,430 and 14 respectively. Though Denver lost to the Seahawks in Superbowl XLVIII, Thomas set a record for most receptions in the Super Bowl with 13 catches; he was a vital part of the franchise’s third world championship two years later when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50. And perhaps his most iconic moment arrived in a Wild Card game on January 8, 2012, when Thomas took a Tim Tebow quick slant pass 80 yards for a game-winning touchdown against the Steelers.
Sadly, Thomas passed away in December 2021, just before his 34th birthday. Though dearly missed, he will be proudly and properly enshrined as the newest member of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.