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Demaryius Thomas bonded with family over son's courage

For those who interacted with him, like Dan Durkee, he saw something more memorable. A big heart.

COLORADO, USA — In life, we got to see just how great of a football player Demaryius Thomas could be, and with his sudden death, we are learning how much better he was off the field.

The former Denver Broncos wide receiver died at his home in Georgia on Thursday night.

RELATED: Bronco players to wear 88 helmet decals for Demaryius Thomas

He would have turned 34 on Christmas.

Broncos fans will remember his stats: second all-time in team history in receiving yards, third in receptions.

For those who interacted with him, like Dan Durkee, he saw something more memorable. A big heart.

"He was just the most warm, kindest superstar that you could ever meet," said Durkee. "The most down to earth, non-Diva like wide receiver that I've ever met."

>>Video below: Remembering former Broncos player Demaryius Thomas

Through his work with The Drake Durkee Foundation, Durkee has met a few.

"In 2014, my son Drake went to Demaryius' football camp," said Durkee. "Drake went to the camp and made an immediate connection with Demaryius. They became friends in just the few days of camp. Drake would stay after camp and Demaryius would throw the ball with him and they became fairly close in just a couple of days."

Drake did not get to attend another camp.

"The next year, my son Drake, was killed in a rafting accident," said Durkee.

From that personal tragedy, the Durkees found a new friend.

"Demaryius found out about it, contacted our family, sent a huge bouquet of flowers and a very nice note," said Durkee.

That note read: "To my number one fan… your family will always be in my thoughts and prayers." Signed Demaryius Thomas.

"Once Demaryius found out that Drake passed away, it was his idea. He called us and said, 'I would really like to have an award in Drake's name to inspire other campers and other children to try that hard in school, at home, on the football field," said Durkee. "The reason that Demaryius and Drake connected was that Drake is the first person to camp. He was the last person to leave. He was the first person at every drill."

>> Video below: Broncos players remember Demaryius Thomas

That's how the Drake Durkee Courage Award began.

"It really surrounded effort," said Durkee. "He used Drake as an example for the other campers."

Thomas invited Durkee to speak to kids at the football camp and present Drake's award.

"He would always hug me. Whenever I'd see him, he would come up and give me just the biggest hug and tell me how much he loved me," said Durkee.

Durkee said the news of Thomas' death had him feeling like he lost a member of his family.

"He introduced us to his mother when she got out of prison and we went to a couple of Broncos games with her, and went to training camp and sat with her," said Durkee. "He would ask me if he could do anything for me. If I needed anything. If he could do anything for the family and he's the superstar!?"

You often hear of people wearing their hearts on their sleeves; even after Thomas was traded from the Broncos in 2018, he wore his on his wrist.

"He was a wide receiver, Drake (was), Drake wore number 88, you can see 88 is on my necklace and 88 is on my wrist band, which by the way, Demaryius wore for the rest of his career," said Durkee. "All the photos of Demaryius, you can see he's wearing Drake's wristband."

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