Devastated and shaken: Demaryius Thomas dies aged 33

Former Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who had a nine-year NFL career and spent the past two seasons with the Houston Texans, has died.

He was just 33. His cause of death is unknown, but a source close to the case said it did not appear to be a suicide. He was taken off life support early on Tuesday, with his brother Ephraim, 31, by his side.

Thomas led the Broncos with 43 receptions and five touchdowns last season as the team became the first in league history to win back-to-back Super Bowls. He had 56 receptions for 704 yards and a TD in Houston, where he was part of an overhaul in the offseason that saw the Texans pick up multiple free agents from Denver including quarterback Brock Osweiler. The Texans signed him to a two-year, $43m contract in March.

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Osweiler expressed his condolences on Twitter: “This is hard to even process right now. Sad news. Prayers out to Demaryius family.”

Receiver Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers said in a tweet that he was “deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Demaryius Thomas. Great man, competitor, teammate and friend. You will always be missed.” Former Broncos teammate Eric Decker offered his prayers.

“I think we all know the unbelievable talent he had and the success he had in the NFL,” Decker said. “He’s one of those guys that was like another coach out there on the field. His work ethic, toughness and determination was second to none. It’s pretty heartbreaking to see it all come to an end.”

Thomas’ single-season touchdown reception record was held by Marvin Harrison. At 6ft 4in and a size where he was frequently used deep, he was beloved as a Jet by fans and teammates. He was part of the team that made a run to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first three seasons in New York, posting more than 90 catches in a season in each of those years.

“No one has been more important to our team than Demaryius Thomas over the past three years,” the Jets said in a statement. “We will always remember how hard he played for us and how much we appreciated everything he did for our team. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time.”

Thomas finished his career with 1,434 catches for 14,234 yards and 84 touchdowns. He missed just two games during his 11 seasons. He was a first-round pick in the 2010 draft out of Georgia Tech.

“He made you believe in the team and what we were trying to do,” said guard Willie Colon, now with the New York Giants. “I’m sick. It’s sad. It’s sad for all the people who loved him and his family.”

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