Former NFL Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas Had C.T.E. When He Died in December at Age 33

by Bryan Fyalkowski

Former NFL wide receiver Demaryius Thomas had Stage 2 C.T.E. when he passed away in December at the young age of 33, doctors from Boston University posthumously discovered. Ken Belson of The New York Times published a feature article this morning that included that news and an in-depth look at Thomas’ family.

People close to Thomas say that his behavior became “increasingly erratic” in the final months of his life. He had memory loss, paranoia and isolated himself from others.

After Super Bowl 50, Thomas was experiencing headaches so bad that he missed many of the celebrations after the Denver Broncos’ win in 2016.

Those are common symptoms of C.T.E., but seizures – which Thomas also suffered from – are not. His seizures were brought on by a single-car crash in 2019. He lost control of his car while driving 70 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone and flipped multiple times. Although he and his friend – who was in the passenger seat – survived, it was then that his seizures began.

Thomas saw neurologists for his head issues, but the medicine made him sluggish and another prescriptions did not do the trick. He had to officially announce his retirement from football in June 2021.

Thomas was found dead in his home on December 9. His cousin said she had just spoken with him the day before. She believed he suffered a seizure that ultimately caused his death.

Demaryius Thomas’ Long NFL Career

The Broncos selected Thomas 22nd overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. By his third season, the Georgia Tech product was a Pro-Bowler, catching 94 passes for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns.

In his 10-year professional career, Thomas had 724 receptions for 9,763 yards and 63 touchdowns. Most of that damage was done alongside quarterback Peyton Manning in Denver.

Thomas last played in 2019 with the New York Jets and tried desperately to make a return to the field so he could get 237 more receiving yards to reach 10,000. But that never happened.

In the article, both his mother and also his former teammate – Bennie Fowler – are asked if what they know now about C.T.E. affects how they feel about playing football.

Fowler says he and other NFL players believe they have some form of C.T.E. and “it comes with the game.”

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime dream come true,” his mother said. “But now I’m more adamant about like, ‘Hey, educate yourself on this.’”

Both acknowledged it, but also balanced their opinion with the benefits and opportunities it provides. During his decade on the field, Demaryius Thomas earned over $74 million in salary and bonuses.