ENGLEWOOD, Col. — Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning has created a scholarship fund at Georgia Tech to honor his friend and former teammate Demaryius Thomas.
Thomas, a former Georgia Tech wide receiver and Georgia native, died Dec. 9 at age 33.
The Demaryius Thomas Scholarship Endowment, created through Manning’s PeyBack Foundation, will award academic scholarships to incoming freshmen from Laurens County, Georgia, where Thomas was born and raised, or surrounding communities who demonstrate significant financial need and academic achievement. Full or partial scholarships will be awarded annually, and students will receive the scholarships until they graduate from Georgia Tech.
“Demaryius Thomas was an incredibly talented and unselfish teammate, but more importantly, he was a special person and friend,” Manning said Wednesday in a statement. “My family and I miss him dearly, and we wanted to honor DT’s memory by partnering the PeyBack Foundation with Georgia Tech to establish the Demaryius A. Thomas Scholarship Endowment.
“An important part of Demaryius’ legacy was the way he inspired the next generation to pursue their dreams with the same perseverance and determination that defined him. Through this scholarship to Georgia Tech, Demaryius will have a lasting impact on serving youth from his hometown area who can follow in his footsteps and accomplish great things in life.”
Georgia Tech also announced that Aug. 8 will be recognized as Demaryius Thomas Day each year; Thomas’ uniform number at the school was No. 8. The recipient of the scholarship will be recognized that day as well.
Yellow Jackets players will also wear a No. 8 decal on their helmets in the 2022 season.
“We are grateful to Peyton and Ashley Manning and the PeyBack Foundation for establishing the Demaryius Thomas Scholarship,” Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury said in a statement. “Thanks to their generous contribution, Demaryius’ legacy will be carried on through Georgia Tech students from Laurens County and surrounding areas for years to come and his memory will be celebrated each year during our 8/8 Day recognitions.”
Thomas was a first-round pick by the Denver Broncos in the 2010 NFL draft and spent nine seasons with the team, including all four of Manning’s seasons in Denver. He finished his career as the Broncos’ second-leading receiver (9,055 yards), behind only Rod Smith, and is third in franchise history in catches (655) behind Smith and Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe.
With the arrival of Manning to the Broncos in 2012, Thomas had at least 90 receptions and 1,300 yards in four consecutive seasons, joining Hall of Famers Marvin Harrison and Jerry Rice as well as former Rams wide receiver Torry Holt as the only players to reach those totals over four consecutive seasons.
In the Broncos’ record-setting 2013 season, when Denver scored a single-season record 606 points and Manning set NFL records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55), Thomas finished with a career-best 14 touchdowns. The next season, Thomas finished with a career-best 1,619 receiving yards.
In all, Thomas set 16 Broncos franchise records, including his 1,619-yard season and his 33 career 100-yard games.
Playing 10 seasons overall with the Broncos, Houston Texans and New York Jets, Thomas finished his NFL career with 724 catches for 9,763 yards and 63 touchdowns.
At Georgia Tech, Thomas was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2009 and officially recorded 113 receptions for 2,135 yards and 13 touchdowns over three seasons.