TUCSON, Ariz. – Giants coach Joe Judge today delivered a poignant remembrance of Demaryius Thomas, the former NFL wide receiver who passed away Thursday night at the age of 33. Judge and Thomas were together on the New England Patriots from April 16-Sept. 10, 2019.
Thomas never played a game for the Patriots, but he left a strong impression on Judge, then the team's wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator.
"I woke up with the text (from his wife, Amber) that he had passed," Judge said to reporters before practice at the University of Arizona. "D.T. is – obviously, you take all of his athletic accomplishments, and they don't hold a candle to the kind of person he was. Just character and just a quality human being. Look, I got to coach him for a brief period of time, but I'd say the impact he had on me as a coach, my approach to the game with a lot of the players, it was profound. Watching this guy as he led as a player – this guy was able to be a leader to the team as an older, experienced player, but he was on PUP (physically unable to perform) at the time. He was hurt. There was a good amount of a chunk of time that I was together with him that he wasn't even active on the field."
"It's tough as a player to have any kind of an impact on the team when you're not out there competing every day, but his ability of almost transcending being a player and almost being a coach at times with the way he would share wisdom and talk through techniques, the hours that he would sit in my office when we talked through game plans. We talked through route technique, we talked through defensive recognition, we talked through how he sees it on the field. It was tremendous."
Judge wasn't the only member of the Giants organization who knew Thomas. Wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert was Thomas' position coach in Denver for seven years. Punter Riley Dixon and long snapper Casey Kreiter were Thomas' teammates on the Broncos.
"All the football stuff aside, none of that holds a candle to what kind of person this guy was, and I think everybody he interacted with, he impacted. There's a lot of guys in our building right now, there's a lot of guys throughout the league that are affected by this. There are a lot of guys in our building directly. I'm not going to speak for Tyke, but Tyke's a guy who was extremely, extremely close with D.T. Extremely close with him and it affects his entire family. Casey Kreiter was a teammate of his. They had a strong relationship. There's a lot of guys through this league – it's a small league anyway – but there's a lot of guys that crossed paths with this guy that he had an impact on. You hear news like that, there's no good way to take it. It kind of makes you reflect back on how fortunate we are for any opportunity we have every day and you never really know when it ends."