ATLANTA, GA — Georgia Tech standout, retired NFL star and Georgia native Demaryius Thomas died Thursday night in his Roswell home, authorities said.
The two-time All-Pro receiver, who earned five straight Pro Bowl honors and a Super Bowl ring during his career, would have turned 34 on Christmas Day.
Thomas had retired from the NFL in June after nine seasons in the league, playing mostly with the Denver Broncos.
“Preliminary information is that his death stems from a medical issue, and our investigators currently have no reason to believe otherwise,” Roswell police spokesman Tim Lupo said in a statement early Friday.
LaTonya Bonseigneur, a first cousin who grew up with Thomas and was so close they considered themselves siblings, told The Associated Press the family believes he died from a seizure.
Family members were notified by the Roswell police about 9 p.m. EST that they had found Thomas in a shower at his home.
“He had been suffering from seizures for over a year, and we believe he had a seizure when he was showering,” Bonseigneur said early Friday. “We’re not sure when he died. We just spoke with him yesterday.”
She said Thomas called his driver, who had a key to the home because of his seizures.
“He went into his home and found him in the shower,” Bonseigneur said.
Over three seasons with Georgia Tech Yellowjackets, Thomas, known to the team as “Bay Bay,” caught 113 passes for 2,135 yards and 13 touchdowns and earned Third Team All-American and First Team All ACC honors in 2009 before declaring for the 2010 NFL Draft, according to Georgia Tech.
He became only Georgia Tech’s 12th first-round draft pick when the Broncos selected him with the 22nd pick.
“I know I speak on behalf of the entire Georgia Tech football family when I say that we are heartbroken by the news of Demaryius’s passing,” Georgia Tech Football Head Coach Geoff Collins said on the team’s website.
“I first got to know Bay Bay during his recruiting process and was fortunate to be a member of the Tech football staff during his true freshman season in 2006. We have grown increasingly closer through the years,” Collins wrote. “I will always remember what a thrill it was for our players when he was able to stop by and spend some time with us during fall camp this past August. Bay Bay was truly one of my favorite people. I will miss him terribly.”
With Denver, Thomas made his mark in the divisional round of the 2011 playoff when he caught four passes for a Broncos record 204 yards, including a game-winning 80-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Tim Tebow on the first play of overtime.
In his first Super Bowl appearance in 2013, he set a receiving record with 13 catches in a Denver loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Two seasons later, he won a championship title when the Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50, according to AP.
After eight-and-a-half seasons with the Broncos, Thomas completed his career with stints playing for the Houston Texans and the New York Jets before his retirement.
Former teammates flooded social media Friday morning with shock and well wishes for Thomas and his family.
“Woke up and saw the really devastating news about my teammate and friend, Demaryius Thomas,” ESPN college football analyst and former Denver Bronco Tim Tebow tweeted. “So many are going to remember him for his athletic ability … but I’ll be remembering him for his kindness, his smile that would light up a room, and the love he had for those in his life.”
Broncos teammate Andrew Mason said Thomas’ toughness and big-play ability brought excitement to Denver fans and endeared him to his team.
“Demaryius Thomas made the new Mile High roar louder than anyone ever did,” Mason tweeted. “He took hit after hit and played through pain. He never quit. Even when he was struggling, he found ways to help his team.”