Demaryius Thomas may be the most underrated wide receiver in the NFL but he continues to prove his importance to the Denver Broncos organization. The 28-year old has emerged as one of Denver's most important players over the years and now has another chance to win the big game.
From a Yellow Jacket, to a Bronco
In the 2010 NFL Draft, Thomas was selected 22nd overall by the Denver Broncos. Thomas had enjoyed a stellar career at Georgia Tech where he racked up 2,339 receiving yards in three seasons with the Yellow Jackets, also adding 15 touchdowns. Coming out of college, there were murmurs of Thomas being the "next Calvin Johnson", the former Georgia Tech receiver who was dominating the NFL.
With those expectations, Thomas had plenty to live up to and his first NFL game was historic, becoming just the ninth rookie to ever catch at least eight balls in his first game, adding 97 yards and a touchdown in the process. He went on to play ten games during his first season, finishing with 283 yards and two scores.
2011 and "The Play"
Thomas struggled with injuries in his rookie year and those problems continued into his second season. He suffered a torn-Achilles prior to the season before recovering ahead of the opener, only to break his pinky in his first practice back making him miss the first five games. Thomas would eventually bounce back, his highlight of the regular season being a huge 144 yard and two touchdown game on just four catches against the Minnesota Vikings.
Arguably the highlight of Thomas' career so far came in the postseason of his second season. After blowing a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Broncos headed into the first ever "sudden-death" overtime in NFL history. The Broncos elected to receive first and on the very first play of overtime, Tim Tebow hit Thomas on a quick slant route that would turn into an 80-yard score to end the game.
Thomas finished the game with 204 total yards and a game-winning touchdown, setting multiple records in the process: fastest ending to an NFL overtime (11 seconds), longest playoff overtime touchdown and most receiving yards in a playoff game in Broncos history.
The Peyton Manning Effect
The signing of Peyton Manning in 2012 proved pivotal in Thomas' career as his third season turned into a breakout year. He caught 94 passes for 1,434 yards and ten touchdowns to help the Broncos into the playoffs, where they would lose to the Baltimore Ravens. Thomas' stats and influence helped him get his first Pro Bowl selection after being chosen as a replacement for the injured Wes Welker.
Thomas seemed to greatly improve each season and 2013 was no different, helping the Broncos to Super Bowl XLVIII. He received his first AFC Offensive Player of the Week honor in Week 10 with seven catches for 108 yards and three touchdowns. Thomas was a key figure in Manning's record breaking season and continued to dominate opponents by racking up 633 yards after the catch, ranking second in the NFL.
The former-Yellow Jacket turned in his best season yet, grabbing 92 passes for 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns. He led the team for the second straight year in receptions and yards while also leading the league in touchdowns by wide receivers. The third-year star has earned his second Pro Bowl selection and a first All-Pro selection. The playoff run proved a special time for Thomas as he scored in every playoff game, including the Super Bowl. Sadly for Thomas, the big game ended in huge disappointment with the Seattle Seahawks beating the Denver Broncos, 43-8.
From Super Bowl Disappointment to Super Bowl 50
Thomas' best ever game during the 2014 season was against one of the league's best secondaries in the Arizona Cardinals. Eight receptions and 226 yards broke a franchise record for most receiving yards in a game, originally held by the legendary Bronco, Shannon Sharpe. His final stat line for the season put him at 111 catches and 1,619 yards. The yardage was second in the league behind Antonio Brown and put him 17th all time for single-season receiving yards.
Prior to the 2015/16 season, Demaryius Thomas signed a five-year deal to keep him in Denver but during the season, Thomas struggled with drops throughout the year. With the troubles at quarterback not helping, Thomas' production fell to the lowest since his second season. Despite the drop, he still managed 1,304 yards and five scores on 105 receptions.
A season full of ups and downs for both Thomas and his team was forgotten as the reached the playoffs and beat both the Steelers and the New England Patriots. Thomas struggled in both games but was able to play in front of his mother for the first time against the Steelers on January 16th, a beautiful moment for him and his family.
Thomas has already cemented his place as one of the league's top receivers and now has another chance to get that all important Super Bowl ring. With his mother in attendance and a second chance at a ring, the former Georgia Tech star will do everything in his power to help his team win as they face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in Super Bowl 50.