Demaryius Thomas, a four-time All-Pro wide receiver with the Denver Broncos, died of complications from seizures, the Fulton County, Ga., medical examiner said Sunday.
Thomas died Dec. 9 at his home in Roswell, Ga., less than six months after retiring from the NFL. He was 33 years old.
In July, doctors at Boston University who examined Thomas’ brain determined he had CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head. The disease, which can only be diagnosed after death, does not cause death. Doctors said they believed Thomas’ seizures were caused by a 2019 car accident in which his head smashed through the windshield and required a hydraulic rescue tool to remove him from the vehicle.
Dr. Ann McKee, the neuropathologist who examined Thomas’ brain, said it would be highly unlikely that CTE would cause seizures, and Thomas likely died of suffocation after a seizure.
While Thomas’ cause of death had been officially determined, Bertram Ennett, an investigator with the Fulton County Coroner’s Office, said the manner of his death was still undetermined.
Thomas’ driver found him lying in the shower at his home, according to Bobby Thomas, Demaryius’ father.
Bobby Thomas and other family members and friends said Demaryius Thomas’ seizures had become more frequent and severe in the last year of his life. They attacked with little or no warning and caused Thomas to destroy other cars and fall down stairs.
At the same time, he suffered from some of the conditions associated with CTE, including memory loss, paranoia and isolation. His behavior became increasingly erratic, those closest to him said, and he would go long stretches without leaving his home or answering calls and texts.
Thomas has faced headaches during his NFL career, which began in 2010 when he was drafted in the first round out of Georgia Tech. In Super Bowl 50, which ended the 2015 season, Thomas was tackled by Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly during the game and had such a headache that he missed most of the Broncos’ after-party.
In 2019, Thomas was driving 70 mph in a 30 mph zone in Denver when he lost control and flipped his car multiple times.
Thomas returned to play the 2019 season, his final, with the Jets, appearing in 11 games. He continued to train in 2020, but stopped training midway through the year because his seizure frequency increased. He sat out that season and officially retired in June 2021.
Thomas played 10 seasons in the NFL, with the Broncos, Houston Texans and Jets, catching 724 passes for 9,763 yards and 63 touchdowns.
In a video announcing his retirementThomas said he was still deciding what to do next and tried to build relationships with anyone he could help.
“It’s not easy to leave football,” he said. “Because that’s my main thing, I’m just trying to find myself and get love out.”