McDaniels shares heartfelt memories of coaching Demaryius Thomas

Demaryius Thomas
Former NFL wide receiver Demaryius Thomas passed away Thursday at age 33.

Josh McDaniels was among the many devastated to hear of Demaryius Thomas' death late Thursday night.

McDaniels was Thomas' first NFL coach, selecting the talented wide receiver in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft while serving as the Denver Broncos' head coach and head of football operations.

As McDaniels recalled Sunday to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Thomas was forever grateful to McDaniels for giving him his first NFL opportunity.

"He always thanked me with a hug for having faith and trust in him," McDaniels told Mortensen. "Then he had the [Broncos'] team photographer take a picture of us. Later, I got a framed photo that he had signed it with a beautiful note."

Brady, Edelman, Pats players share tributes to Thomas

Thomas impressed McDaniels from the day the two met, as McDaniels admired the Georgia native's resolve in the face of family adversity after his mother and grandmother his mother and grandmother were imprisoned when he was just 11 years old for participating in a drug distribution ring.

"We spent the whole day with DT and he was such an intelligent, impressive young man, even with what happened with his mom and grandmother," McDaniels said. "He dealt with different adversities and was mature beyond his years. He was basically a source of positivity."

McDaniels only coached Thomas for two seasons in Denver before returning to the New England Patriots, but the two developed a lasting friendship that included a brief reunion when Thomas joined the Patriots during the 2019 preason.


"He was the best person I have ever coached," McDaniels said. "What an incredible human being. I'm so sad for his family and all who knew him. Loved DT.

"... I didn't coach him his whole career, but he always stayed in contact. Every time we played, he'd give me that hug and thank me. I told him he had held up his end of the bargain.

"He was uniquely gifted at cultivating relationships. Every message I read or saw [after Thomas' death] was true. I'm devastated, like many. The Lord must have needed him."

The Broncos will honor Thomas with a memorial service Sunday before their game against the Lions.