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Thomas Scholarship Established by Mannings’ PeyBack Foundation

THE FLATS – The PeyBack Foundation, the charitable organization founded and led by Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and his wife, Ashley Manning, has established the Demaryius A. Thomas Scholarship Endowment, in memory of Manning’s Denver Broncos teammate and Georgia Tech football legend Demaryius Thomas, the PeyBack Foundation and Georgia Tech athletics announced on Wednesday.

The Demaryius A. Thomas Scholarship Endowment will endow academic scholarships to attend Georgia Tech for incoming freshmen students from Laurens County, Ga., where Thomas was born and raised, or surrounding areas who demonstrate significant financial need. Scholarship awards will range from full scholarships to partial scholarships that may be combined with other forms of aid and split to cover costs for multiple need-based students. Scholarships will follow recipients through the completion of their degree at Georgia Tech, provided they remain in good academic standing. To initially qualify for the Thomas Scholarship, recipients must have a 3.2 or higher high school grade point average and should have demonstrated community service involvement.

“Demaryius Thomas was an incredibly talented and unselfish teammate, but more importantly, he was a special person and friend,” Peyton 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.”

In honor of the establishment of the Thomas Scholarship, Georgia Tech athletics announced that August 8 (8/8) of each year will be recognized by Tech as Demaryius Thomas Day, beginning this summer. Chosen in memory of the jersey No. 8 that Thomas wore at Georgia Tech and No. 88 that he wore for the majority of his National Football League career, including his eight-and-a-half seasons with the Broncos, 8/8 will be the date each season that Tech football will recognize the student-athlete(s) that are chosen to wear jersey No. 8. Other 8/8 festivities will include Georgia Tech athletics recognizing the Thomas Scholarship recipient and partnering with a local youth-oriented organization for a community service event, as well as a friend, teammate and/or family member being invited to speak to the Yellow Jackets’ football student-athletes.

Additionally, Georgia Tech football will honor Thomas’ memory throughout the 2022 season with a No. 8 helmet decal and a No. 8 memorial painted on the field for home games at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

“We are grateful to Peyton and Ashley Manning and the PeyBack Foundation for establishing the Demaryius Thomas Scholarship,” Georgia Tech director of athletics Todd Stansbury said. “Thanks to their generous contribution, Demaryius’ legacy will be carried on through Georgia Tech students from Laurens County and surrounding areas for years to come and his memory will be celebrated each year during our 8/8 Day recognitions.”

One of the greatest wide receivers in Georgia Tech football history, Thomas redshirted as a true freshman at Tech in 2006 and played three seasons for the Yellow Jackets from 2007-09. He officially recorded 113 receptions (10th in school history) for 2,135 yards (sixth) and 13 touchdowns (t-seventh) in his three collegiate campaigns, and his whopping 25.1 yards per reception as a junior in 2009 remains the second-highest single-season receiving average in Tech’s all-time annals. After helping lead the Yellow Jackets to consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division championships in 2008 and 2009 and earning All-America and all-ACC recognition in ’09, he declared for the 2010 NFL Draft.

Thomas became only the 12th first-round draft pick in Georgia Tech history when the Broncos selected him with the 22nd overall pick in the 2010 Draft. He went on to play 10 seasons in the NFL, highlighted by eight-and-a-half campaigns with the Broncos. He caught 724 passes for 9,763 yards and 63 touchdowns as a pro, including 665 receptions for 9,055 yards and 60 touchdowns in 125 games with the Broncos (figures that rank third, second and second in team history, respectively). He owns 16 Broncos franchise records, including single-season receiving yards (1,619 – 2014) and career 100-yard receiving games (33). He earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2013 and 2014 and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection (2012-14, 2016).

As a pro, he is perhaps best remembered for being one of the most prolific postseason performers in the Broncos’ illustrious history. Making his NFL playoff debut in the divisional round of the 2011 playoffs versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, he caught four passes for a Denver postseason record 204 yards, including the game-winning 80-yard touchdown reception on the first play of overtime that lifted the Broncos to a legendary 29-23 win over the Steelers. A season later, Manning joined the Broncos and the duo helped lead Denver to a pair of Super Bowl appearances. In Super Bowl XLVIII, Thomas set a then-Super Bowl record with 13 receptions from Manning in the Broncos’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Two seasons later (2015), the duo won Super Bowl 50 with a 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers. After his eight-and-a-half seasons with the Broncos, he closed his NFL career with the Houston Texans (2018) and New York Jets (2019). He officially announced his retirement in June 2021.

Thomas caught 36 of his 60 NFL touchdowns on passes from Manning, marking the fourth-most hauled in by any receiver during Manning’s 18-season Pro Football Hall of Fame career.

Affectionately nicknamed “Bay Bay,” Thomas was born on Christmas Day, 1987, in Laurens County. He graduated from West Laurens H.S. in 2006. He was known at Georgia Tech and in the NFL for his work in the community, particularly with youth initiatives. He died suddenly on Dec. 9, 2021 at the age of 33. His memorial service was held on Dec. 18, 2021 at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.

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