Calhoun Times

Peyton Manning remembers Demaryius Thomas

- By Ryan O’halloran

Last Tuesday, Peyton Manning received a random text from former teammate Demaryius Thomas.

Thomas asked Manning if he recalled an audible he called against the Arizona Cardinals when they played for the Broncos as the star receiver and quarterbac­k, respective­ly.

Manning responded with a thumbs up emoji and wrote, “Absolutely, I remember.”

“That was sweet,” Thomas replied. Forty-eight hours later, Manning received word Thomas had suddenly passed at his home in

Roswell, Ga., at the age of 33.

“It was an incredible gift to play with him and to get to know him as a person,” Manning told The Denver Post. “Those smiles, those laughs. There was nobody quite like him.”

Before Sunday’s home game against the Detroit Lions, Manning and his kids, Marshall and Mosley, who were wearing Thomas’ orange No. 88 Broncos jersey, left a letter at a memorial set up for Thomas outside the stadium.

In the letter, Manning said he called Thomas, “the most dependable, accountabl­e, tough, hardworkin­g, selfless teammate you could have, not to mention the biggest, strongest, most powerful wide receiver I ever played with.”

Upon hearing about Thomas’ death, Manning said he texted and/ or called former coaches John Fox and Gary Kubiak, former offensive coordinato­r Adam Gase and ex-teammates Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders.

“Hard to believe,” Manning said. “Heartbreak­ing. Devastatin­g.”

At home on Friday night, while trying to process Thomas’ passing, Manning said he, his wife Ashley, and their kids went through old photos of Thomas coming over to their house and getting together at Broncos events.

“The way he treated (the kids) and the way he treated Ashley means more to me than any touchdown or catch over the middle he caught from me,” Manning said. “The greatest picture of him that I have is from the Super Bowl and he has Marshall in the laundry hamper pushing him around the locker room. But he was like that with everybody’s kids. That’s how he was built. That’s how he was wired.”

Thomas attended Manning’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in Canton, Ohio in August.

“He was very concerned about being able to come because of his health and I told him, ‘Don’t do it if you’re not cleared to do it,’” Manning said. “But he did get clearance from his doctor and we had a great visit. He got a bigger kick out of seeing Ashley, Marshall and Mosley.”

Thomas had completed two NFL seasons when Manning was released by Indianapol­is and deciding which team to join in March 2012.

“He was a big part of why I came out here to play,” Manning said. “I obviously studied teams and did my homework and had seen what Demaryius had done his first two years. It was no different than how (Tom) Brady studied Tampa Bay and saw somebody like Mike Evans and said, ‘Hey, that’s a guy I want to go play with.’ That’s what Demaryius was for me here.

“It was exactly as I had hoped it would be; in fact, it was better.”

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