Thomas was born in Montrose, Georgia, on December 25, 1987. When he was a child, police raided the house where his mother and grandmother lived. His mother was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and his grandmother to life in prison, for crack cocaine distribution. By all accounts a shy and introverted child, Thomas grew up with his aunt and uncle after his mother was sent to prison. As a child, he was given the nickname "Bay Bay" by his uncle in reference to the bad kids from the movie Bébé's Kids. On July 13, 2015, President Barack Obamacommuted his mother's sentence. She was released at midnight on November 11, 2015 and saw her son play football for the first time on January 17, 2016. On August 2, 2016, Obama commuted the sentence of Thomas' grandmother.
In addition to playing football, Thomas competed in track & field at West Laurens. He earned a fourth-place finish in the triple jump event at the 2006 Georgia Olympics after clearing a personal-best mark of 13.92 meters (45–4). As a sprinter, he posted a personal-best time of 10.99 seconds in the 100-meter dash and was a member of the 4 × 100 m relay squad.
2006 and 2007 seasons
Demaryius Thomas catches a pass in a 2007 game against Maryland.
Thomas made his collegiate debut in the 33–3 victory over Notre Dame, recording a single reception for nine yards. He scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 56-yard pass from Taylor Bennett in the Yellow Jackets' fourth game against Virginia. In the following game, against Maryland, Thomas recorded his best statistical game of the season with nine receptions for 139 receiving yards and a touchdown in the 28–26 loss. In the 2007 Humanitarian Bowl, he made four receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown in the 40–28 loss to Fresno State.The Sporting News named Thomas to its freshman All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) first team and a freshman All-America honorable mention. In 2007, he saw action in all 13 games including 10 starts, and recorded 35 receptions for 558 yards, which ranked second on the team behind Greg Smith's 588 yards. In addition, he led the team with four receiving touchdowns.
In 2008, Paul Johnson was hired as the head coach and implemented the run-heavy triple option offense. Thomas considered transferring but decided against doing so. During the season, he recorded 39 receptions for 627 yards and three touchdowns as the leading receiver. Despite playing in a heavily run-oriented system, as one of the team's few experienced players, Thomas recorded relatively high numbers for the Yellow Jackets. Still, compared with other receivers in the Atlantic Coast Conference Thomas's statistics were much smaller. He said, "Sometimes I think about [not getting many passes], but most of the time I just want to win." Thomas's mark was the best of any wide receiver from the school since Calvin Johnson had 1,202 yards in 2006. In the 27–0 victory over Duke on October 4, he caught nine receptions for 230 yards, the second-most in a single game in school history.
Thomas started his senior season strong with four receptions for 101 receiving yards in a 37–17 victory over Jacksonville State. In the third game, he had six receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown in the 33–17 loss to Miami. On October 3, against Mississippi State, he had eight receptions for 174 yards and one touchdown in the 42–31 victory. On November 28, in the rivalry game against Georgia, he had five receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown in the 30–24 loss. Georgia Tech finished the regular season with a 10–2 record and qualified for the ACC Championship Game against Clemson. In the 39–34 victory, Thomas recorded a 70-yard receiving touchdown. The Yellow Jackets qualified for the Orange Bowl. Thomas played in the game against Iowa but did not record any statistics in his final collegiate game.
Overall in 2009, during his redshirt junior year at Georgia Tech, Thomas had a breakout season with 46 receptions for 1,154 yards and eight touchdowns. This earned him First-Team All-ACC honors. He finished his collegiate career with 120 catches for a conference-leading 2,339 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Many draft experts had him gaining momentum with NFL scouts going into the last couple weeks leading up to the draft and most had him as the number one or two-rated wide receiver along with Dez Bryant in the 2010 NFL Draft, including Sporting News. On January 8, 2010, he declared for the 2010 NFL Draft.
Thomas broke his foot and was unable to participate in combine drills. He scored second highest among wide receivers with 34 on the Wonderlic test, second only to friend, fellow wide receiver, and future teammate Eric Decker, who had the highest score in the Combine with 43.
The Denver Broncos selected Thomas in the first round, with the 22nd overall selection, in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was the first wide receiver to be chosen that year. On July 31, 2010, the Broncos signed him to a five-year, $12.155 million contract with $9.35 million guaranteed.
Thomas in 2010
In his NFL debut, Thomas had eight receptions for 97 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown as the Broncos defeated the Seattle Seahawks by a score of 31–14. Thomas's first career touchdown reception came on a 21-yard reception from quarterback Kyle Orton. He was just the ninth player since 1970 to record at least eight catches in his first game. Thomas had the second-most catches by a rookie in franchise history, trailing only Eddie Royal, who had nine in a game against the Oakland Raiders in 2008. The highlight of Thomas's season came when he beat All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis for a 17-yard touchdown when the Broncos hosted the New York Jets in a 24–20 loss in Week 6 on October 17.
Thomas was plagued by injuries during his rookie season. He first missed playing time due to a forearm injury and then a concussion; an ankle injury rendered him inactive for five more games late in the season.
Thomas finished his rookie season with 22 receptions for 283 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
On February 10, 2011, it was announced that Thomas had torn his achilles tendon while working out and was expected to miss a majority, if not the entirety, of the 2011 season. However, he was surprisingly activated from the Physically Unable to Perform List prior to the start of the season. Broncos general manager Brian Xanders said that Demaryius had responded to rehab well and was "ready to go." Unfortunately, during his first practice back, Thomas broke his left pinkie finger and missed the first five games of the season.
Thomas made his season debut on October 23, 2011, in Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins. He linked up with quarterback Tim Tebow on a five-yard reception for the Broncos' first score of the game. Denver went on to win by a score of 18–15 in overtime. Despite this early promise, he only had four receptions for 76 total yards in the next five games as the Broncos moved towards a run-heavy option offense. Thomas broke his leg in a Week 13 game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 4, 2011. In that game, he recorded 144 yards and two touchdowns on four receptions. He ended the season strongly, emerging as Tebow's favorite receiver and setting a franchise record by leading the Broncos in both receiving and targets over the final seven games.
In the first round of the playoffs, Thomas truly made his presence felt. On January 8, 2012, in the Wild Card Round, Thomas caught the game-winning, 80-yard touchdown pass from Tebow on the opening play of overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 29–23. The victory occurred in the first non-sudden death playoff game in NFL history. Prior to this game, if the first team scored a field goal, the game would have ended. The rule was changed to where only a safety or a touchdown would end the game before both teams could possess the ball. However, the new rules were not applied as Thomas's touchdown still marked the end of the game. The entire play took 10 seconds, and is the fastest ending to an overtime in NFL history to date. The touchdown was the longest playoff overtime score in NFL history. Thomas ended with a stat-line of four receptions for 204 yards and a touchdown in his playoff debut. It marked the most receiving yards by a Bronco in playoff history and the second-highest receiving average (51.0) in a single game in NFL annals. Thomas had six receptions for 93 yards the following week in a Divisional Round 45–10 loss to the New England Patriots.
Thomas ended the 2011 regular season with 32 receptions for 551 yards and four touchdowns.
Thomas was coming off surgery to remove pins in his left pinkie when quarterback Peyton Manning signed with the Broncos during the 2012 offseason. This meant that, unlike fellow receiver Eric Decker, he was unable to participate in workouts with Manning. Thomas, however, made an effort to improve his route-running and quickly caught up. Manning noted during training camp that Thomas's "size, strength and speed just allow you to do certain things with him that other players just can't do."
Despite reports describing the connection between Thomas and Manning as "balky", Thomas found success again in the Broncos' first game of the season against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Down 13–7, Thomas, in a move reminiscent of his game-winning touchdown in the playoffs, burned the Steelers with a 71-yard catch-and-run. The touchdown was notable because it was the first touchdown Manning had thrown in the NFL for a team other than the Indianapolis Colts, and it was also the 400th of Manning's career, making Manning just the third player in NFL history to reach that milestone. Thomas finished the day with five receptions for 110 receiving yards and the touchdown.
Thomas had a breakout year in 2012, recording 94 receptions for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns. He led the team in targets, receptions, and yards, and ranked eighth in the league in receptions, fourth in yards, and seventh in touchdowns. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl in the 2012 season after receiver Wes Welker withdrew due to injury. He was ranked 68th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2013 list.
Starting the season strong, Thomas had five receptions for 161 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 1 victory over Baltimore Ravens. As he had done in Week 1 of the 2012 season, Thomas took a screen pass for a 78-yard touchdown. This was quarterbackPeyton Manning's seventh touchdown pass of the game, which tied him with five other quarterbacks for the most in a single game in NFL history. Thomas's 161 receiving yards were the second-most in franchise history for a season-opening game, trailing only Shannon Sharpe's 180 in the Broncos' 1995 regular season opener. He recorded his first multi-touchdown performance of the season with two against the Philadelphia Eagles in the 52–20 victory in Week 4. Thomas received AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career in the Broncos' Week 10 win over the San Diego Chargers. He posted seven receptions, 108 yards, and three touchdowns. In the following game against the Kansas City Chiefs, he had five receptions for 121 yards in the 27–17 victory. In Week 16, against the Houston Texans, he had eight receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown in the 37–13 victory. In the regular season finale against the Oakland Raiders, he had six receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the 34–14 victory.
Thomas total contributions to the Broncos' historic season on offense were significant. He caught Manning's 55th touchdown, which set an NFL record for the most touchdowns thrown by a quarterback in a single season. Manning also broke the single season passing yardage mark on that same pass to Thomas. His 633 yards after catch was second in the entire league. Manning, who said that Thomas "got great speed and power and it's fun to watch once he gets it in his hands", attributed part of Thomas' success to "all the runs he had to practice at Georgia Tech".
Recording 92 catches for 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns during the 2013 regular season, Thomas ranked ninth in the league for receptions, fourth in yards, and second in touchdowns. His 14 touchdowns paced all wideouts in the NFL. Thomas led the team in targets, receptions, and yards for the second consecutive year. He also led the team in receiving touchdowns.
Thomas was again voted to the Pro Bowl in 2013. He was selected to the Associated Press All-Pro team for the first time in his career.
Thomas averaged 9.33 receptions and 102 yards per game during the 2013–2014 playoffs, including the Super Bowl. He also scored a touchdown in every playoff game. In the Divisional Round against the San Diego Chargers, he had eight receptions for 54 receiving yards and a touchdown in the 24–17 victory. In the AFC Championship, against the New England Patriots, he had seven receptions for 134 receiving yards and a touchdown in the 26–16 victory. Thomas set a then NFL record for most catches in a Super Bowl game by a player (James White broke the record in Super Bowl LI with 14 catches), despite reportedly playing most of the game with a separated shoulder. In Super Bowl XLVIII, Thomas had a then-Super Bowl record 13 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown, but the Broncos lost 43–8 to the Seattle Seahawks. He was ranked #49 by his peers on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2014 list.
Manning (left) throwing his record-breaking touchdown pass #509 to Demaryius Thomas (lower right), October 19, 2014
Thomas started the 2014 season quietly with 13 receptions for 141 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown combined in the first three games, a 2–1 stretch for Broncos. On October 5, 2014, against the Arizona Cardinals, Thomas made eight receptions for 226 yards, breaking the franchise record for receiving yards in a single game held by Shannon Sharpe, and two touchdowns, of which one went for a career-high 86 yards. He earned his second AFC Offensive Player of the Week honor for his performance against the Cardinals. On October 19, 2014, against the San Francisco 49ers, Thomas caught Peyton Manning's all-time record-breaking 509th touchdown pass. The historic touchdown reception was part of a day where Thomas had eight receptions for 171 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in the 42–17 victory. In Week 9, against the New England Patriots, he had seven receptions for 127 receiving yards. On November 16, 2014, in a Week 11 game against the St. Louis Rams, Thomas caught seven passes for 103 yards, extending his own franchise record for consecutive 100 yard games to seven, in the 22–7 loss. Thomas finished second only to Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown in receiving yards for the 2014 season, with a career-high 1,619 yards off a career-high 111 catches. He was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl for the 2014 season. He was ranked 20th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2015 list.
On March 3, 2015, the Denver Broncos placed the franchise tag ($12.823 million) on Thomas. Reports indicated that the tag is non-exclusive, which means that Thomas can negotiate with other teams, and the Broncos have the right to match any offer, or receive two first-round picks as compensation.
On July 15, 2015, Thomas signed a five-year, $70 million contract extension with the Broncos, just hours before the deadline for franchise players. The deal was similar in structure to Dez Bryant's contract extension with the Dallas Cowboys. Bryant was also franchise tagged and signed just hours before Thomas. He was also drafted just two picks after Thomas, going 24th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. Between Peyton Manning struggling with a plantar fasciitis injury and Brock Osweiler never having a career start before the season, Thomas's production dropped, but he still had 105 receptions for 1,304 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns.
After a 60-yard performance in the 19–13 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the season opener, Thomas recorded eight receptions for 116 yards in the 31–24 Thursday Night Football victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. In a Week 6 overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns, he had 10 receptions for 111 receiving yards. He followed that up with eight receptions for 168 receiving yards in the 29–10 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Week 8. Following a Week 9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, where Peyton Manning was benched for a stint in favor of Brock Osweiler, Thomas's production slightly dropped. From Weeks 10 to 15, he averaged 61.8 yards per game but scored four receiving touchdowns in that stretch. In a Week 15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, he recorded his only game of the 2015 season with two receiving touchdowns. In the regular season finale, a 27–20 victory over the San Diego Chargers, he had five receptions for 117 receiving yards and a 72-yard receiving touchdown from Osweiler on the second play from scrimmage. The game saw Manning return from the bench to help edge the Broncos to victory.
After his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season, Thomas was selected to the 2017 Pro Bowl. He played in the game and recorded two receptions for 37 yards in the 20–13 victory for the AFC. He finished the 2016 season with 90 receptions for 1,083 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.
He led the team with 83 receptions for 949 yards and five touchdowns as the Broncos struggled to a 5–11 record.
Going into the 2018 season, the Broncos had a new quarterback in Case Keenum. In the first four games of the season, Thomas totaled 20 receptions for 168 receiving yards and a touchdown. In Week 5, he had his best output of the season to that point with five receptions for 105 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown in a 34–16 loss to the New York Jets.
Thomas in 2018
On October 30, 2018, the Broncos traded Thomas and a seventh round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft to the Houston Texans for a fourth and seventh round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
In his debut with the Texans, he had three receptions for 61 receiving yards in the 19–17 victory over the Broncos, his former team. In Week 12, against the Tennessee Titans, he recorded four receptions for 38 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns in the 34–17 victory. During Week 16, Thomas was carted off the field in the second half of a 32–30 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles with an apparent Achilles injury. It was revealed that he suffered a torn Achilles and was placed on injured reserve on December 24, 2018.
In the 2018 season, combined with his time with the Broncos and Texans, Thomas recorded 59 receptions for 677 yards and five touchdowns.
On February 12, 2019, Thomas was released by the Texans.
New England Patriots
On April 16, 2019, Thomas signed a one-year contract with the New England Patriots. He was released during final roster cuts on August 31, 2019. Three days later, on September 2, 2019, the Patriots re-signed Thomas to a one-year contract, but he never played a regular-season game for the team.
Receiving touchdowns in a playoff season: (3 in 2013)
Receiving touchdowns in a playoff career: (6) (tied with Rod Smith)
Games with at least 100 receiving yards, career: (33)
Most games with at least 100 receiving yards, single season: (10 in 2014)
Most games with at least two receiving touchdowns: (10) (tied with Ed McCaffrey)
Consecutive games with at least 100 receiving yards, season: (7 in 2014)
Consecutive with at least 100 receiving yards, playoffs: (2) (tied with Vance Johnson)
Consecutive games with at least five receptions: (16 in 2016)
Thomas was an evangelical Christian, and he frequently posted about his faith on his Twitter account. He had a tattoo of a portrait of Jesus on his left arm bearing the phrase "Jesus Saves".
On July 15, 2016, Thomas was honored by the city council of Dublin, Georgia, which named the day as Demaryius Thomas Day.
Thomas was found dead at his home in Roswell, Georgia, on December 9, 2021, at age 33. He had experienced health problems following a car crash in 2019, and police said that his death was attributed to a "medical issue".