Four-time All-Pro catcher DeMarius Thomas of the Denver Broncos died of epilepsy complications, the medical examiner in Fulton County, Georgia, said Sunday.
Thomas died at his home in Roswell, Georgia, on Dec. 9, less than six months after he retired from the NFL, at the age of 33.
In July, doctors at Boston University who examined Thomas’ brain found he had CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated head blows. The disease can only be diagnosed after death and does not lead to death. Doctors say they believe Thomas’ seizures were caused by a car crash in 2019, when his head hit the windshield and a hydraulic rescue tool was needed to get him out of the car.
Neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee, who examined Thomas’ brain, said the CTE was unlikely to have caused his seizures, and Thomas likely died of asphyxiation after the seizure.
While Thomas’ cause of death has been officially determined, Bertram Ernett, an investigator with the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office, said his cause of death remains undetermined.
According to Demaryius’ father, Bobby Thomas, Thomas’ driver found him lying in the shower at his home.
In the last year of his life, Bobby Thomas and other family and friends said Demaryius Thomas’ seizures became more frequent and noticeable. They attacked without warning and caused Thomas to crash other cars and fall off the steps.
At the same time, he also suffered from a number of disorders associated with CTE, including memory loss, paranoia and isolation. Those closest to him said his behavior became increasingly erratic, and he did not leave the house for long periods of time and did not answer calls and texts.
Thomas has had headaches throughout his NFL career, which began in 2010 when he was drafted in the first round by Georgia Tech. In Super Bowl 50, which ended the 2015 season, Thomas was tied by Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Cuchley in the game and missed most of the party with a headache after the Broncos won.
In 2019, Thomas lost control and rolled over multiple times while driving at 70 mph in Denver.
Thomas returned to the 2019 season, his last with the Jets, appearing in 11 games. He continued exercising in 2020, but stopped training mid-year due to increased frequency of seizures. He missed that season and officially retired in June 2021.
Thomas played 10 seasons in the NFL with the Broncos, Houston Texans and Jets, completing 724 passes for 9,763 yards and 63 touchdowns.
in a video announcing retirementThomas said he is still deciding what to do next and hopes to build a relationship with anyone who can help.
“It’s not easy to leave football,” he said. “Because that’s my main job, just trying to find myself and express love.”