DENVER — The Broncos lined up with 10 players in the formation on their first play from scrimmage Sunday in their game against the Detroit Lions to honor former wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was found dead this week at age 33.
On a first-and-10 from the Denver 25-yard line to open the game, the 10 players stood motionless and waited for the play clock to wind all the way down. They were assessed a delay-of-game penalty that the Lions quickly declined.
The crowd cheered loudly, some chanting “D-T” before the play clock ran out.
Thomas, who would have turned 34 on Christmas, was found dead in his home in Roswell, Georgia, on Thursday. Police said Thursday night that preliminary reports were that Thomas’ death may have resulted from a medical issue.
Thomas had officially announced his retirement from the NFL this past June.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio had said after Friday’s practice the team would “be ready to pay tribute to him Sunday.”
The Broncos’ players wore helmet decals for the game with Thomas’ No. 88 and there was a moment of silence pre-game as well as a video tribute.
Thomas was the first of two first-round picks for the Broncos in the 2010 NFL draft — Tim Tebow was the other — and spent nine seasons with the Broncos and finished his career as the team’s second-leading receiver (9,055 yards), behind only Rod Smith. He is third in franchise history in catches (655) behind Smith and Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe.
He played in 10 seasons overall and finished with 724 catches for 9,763 yards and 63 touchdowns.
Between 2012 and 2015, Thomas had at least 90 receptions and 1,300 yards in four consecutive seasons, joining Hall of Famers Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice and Rams legend Torry Holt as the only players to reach those totals over four consecutive seasons.
In the Broncos’ record-setting offensive season in 2013, Thomas finished with a career-best 14 touchdowns. The following season he finished with a career-best 1,619 yards receiving.