ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Before the Broncos went out to practice on Wednesday morning, Justin Simmons and Tim Patrick saw that Peyton Manning made news by announcing that he and his wife, Ashley, were endowing a new scholarship in memory of his former teammate Demaryius Thomas, who died in December at 33 years old.
The scholarship will provide aid to incoming first-year students at Georgia Tech who are from the same area where Thomas grew up and who display substantial financial need.
"Honestly, I think that was the biggest thing you could do to honor D.T.," Patrick said after practice. "He was a great football player, but he cared about people more and helping people. And for Peyton to do something like that and his family to do something like that for D.T., it means a lot. Not just to me but probably to D.T.'s family, too. It was a good thing to see."
On the field, Thomas and Manning were one of the most productive quarterback-receiver tandems in franchise history during the four seasons they played together. Off the field, they were close friends, as well, and Manning said Wednesday in a press release that the decision intends to leave a lasting legacy as a tribute to the kind of person Thomas was.
"Demaryius Thomas was an incredibly talented and unselfish teammate, but more importantly, he was a special person and friend," Manning said. "My family and I miss him dearly, and we wanted to honor D.T.'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 deserving youth from his hometown area who can follow in his footsteps and accomplish great things in life."
Simmons, who also considered Thomas to be a dear friend, was also impressed by Manning's gesture.
"I thought that was absolutely amazing," Simmons said. "I think we're in a world today, or at least a society today, where it's like, 'If I was this person, I would have did this. If I had this, I would do that.' Right? When it comes down to it, no one is responsible to do anything for anyone else. And I think when you look at it from that perspective, Peyton didn't have to do what he did, but it's because D.T. meant so much to him. And I think that's what takes it to another level. You come from an aspect of thinking, like, 'Well, he should. He's D.T.'s teammate. It was his brother. They did so many great things together.' He didn't have to.
"So, for him to take that step, for him and his family to take that step to honor D.T. and his family, and all those kids that they're going to affect in D.T.'s hometown for years and years and years to come to go on to Georgia Tech with full scholarships, partial scholarships, whatever it may be — I think that to me is like just the ultimate show of respect. I can't say any more good things about it. I think looking at it at the surface is like, he didn't have to do something like that, and the fact that he did just spoke volumes to what D.T. meant to him. I think that was really special."